Gospel Reading: Third Sunday in Lent Year C

GOSPEL – LUKE 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices.  At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans?  They were not, I tell you.  No; but unless you repent you will perish as they did.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  They were not, I tell you.  No; but unless you repent you will perish as they did.’ He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none.  He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none.  Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?’’ “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”

GUIDELINES TO HELP US TO MEDITATE ON THE PASSAGE SO AS TO RECOGNIZE AND CELEBRATE GOD’S PRESENCE AND ACTIVITY IN OUR LIVES AND WORLD TODAY.

“Do you suppose that these Galileans who suffered…. no. but unless you repent you will all perish.”

Can you recall hearing of an eruption of violence and thinking that this was something that only happened to other people, and in other places; until someone brought home to us very forcibly that unless we all have a change of heart, and address the seeds of violence within ourselves – prejudice, hatred, bigotry –  we would all be heading in the same direction? Lord, during this season of Lent, help us to weed out any such evil in our hearts.

“Cut it down, why should it be taking up the ground?

What about the man who owned the vineyard: when have you seen someone in authority so exacting, demanding and lacking in humanity, who showed no mercy in the face of human weakness or wrongdoing?  Lord, help us to be merciful to others as you are to us.

.. ‘leave it for one more year…?’

Can you recognize the man who ‘looked after the vineyard’: someone who in the face of human weakness, shortcomings or failure was deeply compassionate and merciful in the face of human weakness, shortcomings or failures – believed we were capable of more or better and gave us one more chance –  and yet at the same time remained firm and realistic,  “If not then you can cut it down.”  Lord, surround us with people who are patient, gentle and understanding and don’t give up on us too quickly.

“Do you think they were more guilty. They were not, I tell you..”

Can you remember an experience of suffering in your own life, or in the life of someone close to you, and you were tempted at first to think it was a punishment for some sin in your life, or in your past, but someone or some event has freed us from this false image of a punishing God (‘owner of the vineyard’), and now we are slowly coming to know the tender heart of the Gardener (‘who looks after the vineyard’)?  Lord, may this true image of your mercy and compassion bring out the best in us.