The Third Sunday in Lent (Year C)

Reflect and Grow in Faith

A sermon from parishioner Jessica Moynihan

Luke 13:1-9

Good morning, everyone. I hope everyone is well. I would like to start off today with a poll of sorts by show of hands: when something bad has happened in your life, who here has ever thought to themselves “what bad thing did I do to deserve this?”

Okay, how many of you will hear about something bad happening to somebody else whether it be by word of mouth, on the news, or reading it online and then think to themselves “did THEY do something bad to deserve that?”

Okay, last question – how many of you will have something good happen to you and think to yourself “why is this happening to me?”

Isn’t it interesting how when we experience something bad, we think that we must have done something bad to deserve this. But why don’t we ask the same question when something good happens? When we get a free coffee unexpectedly,  we don’t question it. But, on the other hand, when we spill a piping hot honey almond milk flat white coffee on ourselves, our immediate thought is “what did I do wrong to deserve this?” By the way, that’s not my Starbucks order!

In today’s Gospel, we hear about Jesus’ disciples asking him a question regarding punishment for committing bad acts. Because that’s a common thought process, right? People often will think that tragedy is a punishment. They have the thought process that if something bad happens to them, it’s because they did something to deserve it. This is a common thought, especially in Biblical Times. But, Jesus tells them it’s not about deserving, instead, it is about what the tragedy says to us. Let’s dissect this further.

There are 2 sections to today’s Gospel from Luke. In the first, we hear about Jesus’s disciples telling Him “about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” We actually don’t know what this event is referring to, but scholars assume that there were people going to the temple to offer sacrifices and they had been killed on their way – thus their blood was mixed with their sacrifice’s blood. So, this idea of karma gets brought into play. Maybe those Galileans did something really bad to deserve this ghastly tragedy? But, Jesus tells them that those Galileans are NOT worse sinners because they had suffered worse, and he goes on to say “but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

To simplify this – Jesus is telling them that it doesn’t work like karma. He says this is a message for you. This is how you should respond, which is to repent. Also, to perish, does not mean to die. He is speaking about the judgment after death, whether you are to live eternal life or be in eternal death. Then, Jesus brings up the tower falling and poses the same question and answer. Again, you all need to repent. So, to reiterate, this is a sign for us and a reminder to ask for forgiveness from our Lord God for our sins. These stories and tragedies are a reminder of our own mortality. Reality is, we are all going to die one day and when these events happen, like a tower falling, it should be a reminder of that mortality and what we need to do before we are judged by God.

Now let’s look at the 2nd section, which is the Parable of the Fig Tree. The fig tree was often a symbol of the people of Israel. For example, in Matthew 21:18-22, we see Jesus cursing the fig tree for not bearing fruit. This is a kind of metaphor for the people of Israel of the day. What’s being said is that the fact that they haven’t bore fruit, means they haven’t received Jesus and therefore do not know God.

In today’s Parable, we witness the man being discussed telling his gardener to cut down the fig tree that was not bearing fruit because it was wasting the soil. The gardener replied that they should give it one more year, and if it still doesn’t bear fruit, then he will cut it down. What Jesus is doing here, is drawing attention to the time factor. He is saying that this tree is living on borrowed time and that it only has 1 year left to bear fruit. Does the tree know that? No, it doesn’t. But the point is the urgency, the need to act NOW. Otherwise, there will be destruction coming. So, when we see these things happening, it’s a warning or an urgency for us to act now.

The message is clearer now that we’ve broken all of this information down and simplified it. What we have learned is that it’s best not to speculate or assume. Tragedies that happen in our lives remind us of the mortality and sin of our lives. The question is – Have you heard the Good News and accepted Jesus into your life? Are you ready for God’s judgment? We are all living on borrowed time and need to make things right with God before it is too late.

This message can seem a little daunting and scary, right? But it’s not, it’s actually quite beautiful. This is an opportunity, especially during this season of Lent, where we can reflect on the fact that Jesus will return again and He will return as judge, to judge the living and the dead. Each day that passes is a wonderful opportunity to get ready, to grow in faith, to grow in our trust in our God who loves us unconditionally. How wonderful is it to ask for forgiveness, be forgiven and to make a personal connection with God?

When reading this passage, it’s almost impossible for me not to think about a personal example of someone who made a connection with God and held onto that faith despite tragedy hitting her life. The following words are written by my husband Sean about his late aunt: Jeanne Gallagher unfortunately lost a very long battle to cancer a few weeks ago. She was a beautiful person inside and out, as well as a faithful Christian. She had strong faith in everything she did including teaching her boys the word of Jesus. She also helped spread her joy and faith through the community, as she was very involved in her children’s education at their Catholic schools. Jeanne was a reflection of the love and goodness that God has gifted us and that we all need in our lives. In all, Jeanne bore fruit with the tree that was given to her through her actions. She knew God, she trusted Him and she spread His word, love and kindness.

I would like to leave you today with a Lenten Prayer: Let us pray. Dear God, in this season of Lent, we’re reminded of our own difficulties and struggles. Sometimes the way has seemed too dark. Sometimes we feel like our lives have been marked by such grief and pain, we don’t see how our circumstances can ever change. But in the midst of our weakness, we ask that you would be strong on our behalf. Lord, rise up within us, let your Spirit shine out of every broken place we’ve walked through. Allow your power to be manifest through our own weakness, so that others will recognize it is You who is at work on our behalf. We ask that you would trade the ashes of our lives for the beauty of your Presence. Trade our mourning and grief for the oil of joy and gladness from your Spirit. Trade our despair for hope and praise. We choose to give thanks today and believe that this season of darkness will fade away. Thank you that you are with us in whatever we face and that you are greater than this trial. We know and recognize that you are Sovereign, we thank you for the victory that is ours because of Christ Jesus, and we are confident that you have good still in store for our future. We thank you that you are at work right now, trading our ashes for greater beauty. We praise you, for you make all things new. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.