From the Pastor's Desk

How am I like the fig tree that has not borne fruit? How can I bear fruit in the year ahead?

All three of today’s readings speak of God’s mercy and compassion in disciplining His children by occasional punishment while giving them another chance despite their repeated sins. Although God’s love for us is constant and consistent, He will not save us without our co-operation. That is why He invites us during Lent to repent of our sins and to renew our lives by producing fruits of love, compassion, forgiveness, and faithful service.

Scripture lessons

The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by giving them: Moses as their leader and liberator. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (v. 6) reveals Himself to Moses from the burning bush and assures Moses of His Divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. He declares His intention to use Moses as the leader who will rescue His enslaved people. Then God reveals His name as Yahweh (“I AM Who AM”) and renews His promise to the patriarchs (v. 8), to give them a “land flowing with milk and honey.”

Our Responsorial Psalm, (Ps 103) reminds us of God’s unfailing mercy: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.” The second reading warns us that our merciful God is also a disciplining God. Paul reminds the Christians of Corinth that they must learn from the sad experience of the Israelites who were punished for their sins by a merciful but just God. The merciful and gracious God is also just and demanding, and hence they must be free from sexual sins and idolatry.

Today’s Gospel explains how God disciplines His people, invites them to repent of their sins, to renew their lives, and to produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Citing two tragic events, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent and reform their lives. With the parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus also warns them that the merciful God will not put up with them indefinitely. Although God patiently waits for sinners to repent, giving them grace to do so, He will not wait forever. Time may run out; therefore, timely repentance is necessary. Hence, one can say, “A Lent missed is a year lost from the spiritual life.

Life Messages

1) We need to live lives of repentance, because (a) we never know when we will meet a tragedy of our own. Let us turn to Christ, acknowledge our faults and failings and receive from him mercy, forgiveness and the promise of eternal life. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to sacramental confession, and there is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. (b) repentance helps us in life and in death. It helps us to live as forgiven people and helps us to face death without fear.

2) We need to be fruitful trees in God’s orchard. Lent is an ideal time "to dig around and manure" the tree of our life so that it may bring forth fruits of repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sensitivity to the feelings of others. 3) We need to make the best use of the "second chances" God gives us. Our merciful Father always gives us second chances. During Lent, too, we are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love.

Fr. Gus. MS, Pastor