SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
3rd Sunday of Lent (Cycle C) – March 24, 2019
Lent is the forty-day period before Easter (Christ spent 40 days in the desert after His baptism where He fasted and was tempted by Satan). These 40 days, excluding Sundays, begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday). Holy Week, the week before Easter, starting on Palm Sunday, includes the Sacred Triduum: the Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper with foot washing, Good Friday, plus the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. Sundays are excluded from Lent because each and every Sunday represents its own “mini-Easter”, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death and His resurrection on the first day of the week.
Lent is a special time of prayer, examine, penance, sacrifice and performing good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter. Performing good works include: attending the Stations of the Cross, attending Mass, making a weekly holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, taking time for personal prayer and spiritual reading, making a good confession, fasting from certain foods and other activities; plus, the giving of alms not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. Lent is a season of reflection and mourning and because of this soberness of Lent, Alleluia is not said in prayer, nor sung in the liturgy, nor is clapping done at the end of the Mass during this season. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting (reduction of one’s intake of food) and abstinence (refraining from meat). Meat is defined here as “flesh-meat”: flesh that comes from animals that live on land, or birds. Christians fast from flesh-meat in order to overcome the passions of the flesh. Catholics believe that flesh-meat causes an increase in temptations to lust and anger, and this is why we abstain from flesh-meat. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
Vestments – Violet or purple is used during Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation. At the midpoint of Lent, Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent), rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy. We rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through our preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Easter.
3rd Sunday of Lent Theme: Suffering and Repentance.
Suffering – Adam and Eve “had it all”, “life was good” and they “did it their way” and then lost everything. In Reading 1, God informs Moses that He has been well aware of the Hebrew people’s suffering, desolation, and cries for relief and that now He intends to deliver them from their Egyptian slavery. God’s plan for us is to learn, grow, and mature spiritually in good times and in times of suffering. It’s in times of suffering when we realize we can only survive by having faith (obedient belief), hope, and trust in the Lord because we, on our own, cannot relieve our sorry state of our affairs.
Causes of Suffering – Paul, in Reading 2, states that the Hebrews themselves, caused some of their own trials and sufferings – 40 days in the desert, the Exile, because of their disobedience. Jesus, in the Gospel reading, uses the example of the falling of the Tower at Siloam to state that some trials and suffering occur without any linkage to our proper nor improper actions and behaviors (i.e. accidents).
Repent – Jesus further states that we must always repent of any sinful behaviors that we commit whether we are in trials of our own making, in trials not of our own making, and/or especially in “the good times”.
“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)
“Be ashamed when you sin, not when you repent.” (Saint John Chrysostom)
Reading 1 – Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15 God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and sends him to the Israelites.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 103:1-4,6-8,11 A prayer in praise of God’s mercy.
Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 Paul teaches that the Scriptures were written to set an example for us.
Gospel – Luke 13:1-9 Jesus preaches a lesson on repentance.
This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.
NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document.
Reading 1 Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15 (The Name of God)
Context – The Book of Exodus (the word “exodus” means “departure”) bears witness to God’s actions (about 1350-1200 BC) to deliver a people from bondage and to bind them to Himself in covenant. The Book of Exodus is a continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of this episode in the life of Israel. At the center of all this stood Moses who was called by God to be the agent in delivering Israel from slavery, to be the interpreter of God’s redemptive work, and to be the mediator of the covenant. This book tells of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, the birth and education of Moses and his flight into the land of Midian, his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Horeb) (the burning bush), Moses’ return to Egypt and pleadings with Pharaoh, the plagues of Egypt, the institution of the Passover, the passing through the Red Sea, the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, the golden calf, and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.
Today’s Reading – God appears to Moses in the burning bush. At this time, Moses is now married and is a shepherd of his father-in-law’s flock. God identifies Himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God also tells Moses that he has heard the cry of His suffering people in Egypt and that He now intends to free them.
Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian. Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb (Mount Sinai), the mountain of God. There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.”
When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. [i] I am the God of your fathers, “ He continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of My people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what am I to tell them?” [ii] God replied, “I Am who Am.” Then He added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites:
I AM sent me to you.”
God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. “This is My Name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. ”The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” – Generally speaking, the terms Hebrews, Jews, and Israelites all refer to the same people- the nation which sprang from Abraham through Isaac through Jacob (who had 12 sons – their names became the names of the 12 tribes of Israel), a nation promised and chosen by God in the Old Testament. We say “Abraham through Isaac” and “Isaac through Jacob” because both Abraham and Isaac had multiple sons. This gives the exact lineage of the people of God – the Israelites.
Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 103:1-4,6-8,11 (The Lord’s Kindness)
This psalm of thanksgiving recounts God’s goodness to Moses and the Israelites, and God’s desire to deliver the oppressed.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless His holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
The LORD secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. He has made known His ways to Moses, and His deeds to the children of Israel.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. [iii] For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is His kindness toward those who fear Him.
R. – The Lord is kind and merciful.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. This Psalm 103 was the inspiration for the following hymn:
Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven.
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven; to His feet your tribute bring. Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven, evermore His praises sing. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise the everlasting King!
Praise Him for His grace and favor to His people in distress. Praise Him, still the same as ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless. Alleluia, alleluia! Glorious in His faithfulness!
Fatherlike He tends and spares us; well our feeble frame He knows. In His hand He gently bears us, rescues us from all our foes. Alleluia, alleluia! Widely yet His mercy flows!
Angels, help us to adore Him; you behold Him face to face. Sun and moon, bow down before Him, dwellers all in time and space. Alleluia, alleluia! Praise with us the God of Grace! (Henry Francis Lyte – 1834)
So, why don’t we sing this hymn during Lent? Look up top and it says – We Catholics don’t say “alleluia” in Lent.
Reading 2 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 (Learn from the Free Will Mistakes of the Past)
Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.
Today’s Reading – Paul warns the Corinthians (and us) not to equate election (being chosen) with salvation. Their ancestors received many blessings from God, yet most did not follow His ways. While traveling through the desert, the Israelites received many spiritual blessings (sacraments in a way) and yet they fell away from God. Paul reminds the Corinthians that despite the opportunity for salvation they have received through the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist, they must work at continuous conversion lest they perish like their ancestors. Failure to heed God’s call to ongoing repentance will bring dire consequences.
I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. [iv] All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. [v] These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the End of the Ages [vi] has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.
Gospel Luke 13:1-9 (Time to Repent)
Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).
Today’s Reading – Today’s Gospel makes reference to two disasters which the people ask Jesus to comment on. They seem to believe that bad things have befallen the victims because they are sinners. And that the absence of bad things in the questioners’ lives implies that they are righteous and not in need of repentance. Jesus quickly sets His questioners straight on this issue: “Bad things didn’t happen to the victims in either incident because they were unrighteous or bad people. And the absence of bad things in your lives does not mean that you are not in need of repentance. Indeed you are.” Jesus admonishes them: “You are all in need of repentance and if you do not repent, you will perish.” The unrepentant will suffer a fate worse than the victims of the disaster. Jesus uses the two terrible events as a metaphor for the catastrophic ending that awaits those who refuse to repent. Jesus is saying that the big tragedy in life is not being abused or killed accidentally. Rather, true tragedy rests in the hearts of each of us and our choice (Free Will) to reject God’s call to repentance and change of heart.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. [vii] Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them [viii] — do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And He told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'”
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. Interpretations of The Parable of The Fig Tree (a.k.a. The Parable of the Second Chance): 1. The fig tree represents Israel; the Vinedresser represents God. Just as the gardener is patient with the fig tree, so is God patient with sinners (God is long suffering with us, giving us time to repent. Sirach 51:30 – “Do your work before the appointed time (before your death), and in God’s time He will give you your reward (either here on earth or in heaven).”). 2. Pope St. Gregory the Great – “By the dresser of the vineyard is represented the order of Bishops, who, by ruling over the Church, take care of our Lord’s vineyard. But the one who will not by correction grow rich to fruitfulness, falls to that place (heaven) from whence that one is no more able to rise again by repentance.” 3. St. Theophylact – “The master of the household is God the Father, the dresser is Christ, who will not have the fig tree cut down as barren, as if saying to the Father: Although through the Law (Ten Commandments) and the Prophets they gave no fruit of repentance, I will water them with My sufferings and teaching, and perhaps they will yield us fruits of obedience.”
Catechism 1037 – God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”.
Archbishop Charles Chaput has stated the following in his prior six Lenten Homilies:
Lent is a time for us to start all over again to make things new by examining our hearts (not our minds) for the teachings of Christ.
Lent is a training camp for us (just like the beginning of baseball season) where the basic rules of the “game” are the “10 Words of God” (ie. the Ten Commandments).
Abraham is our Father in Faith. He trusted God and we are to do the same in order to be all that God calls us to be. Trust God and follow Him where ever He leads us. And we will have everlasting life.
Lent is about covenants (promises) – God’s promise to us and our promises to God. God always keeps His promises. We don’t and when we break our covenants, God gives us a chance to begin again – ie. LENT!
To the Jews the heart was interpreted as the place within them where decisions were made, a place of intelligence. Therefore, that’s what God used in referring to the new covenant that He would “write it on their hearts” as opposed to the old covenant that was written on stone tablets. Thus the “heart” of Christianity is to be obedient to God our Father through His Son Jesus.
To the Greeks, the term “seeking” means “to learn about”. Therefore the Gospel reading identifying that there were “Greeks seeking Jesus” meant that they wanted to learn about Jesus. The Gospel also mentions that Jesus said we need to “die” (ie. “give up what it is”) to ourselves in order to amount to something worthwhile. The foundation of Christian morality (ie. what are we to do) is to die to ourselves and live for God and others by imitating the life style of Jesus.
The Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) message is that we should joyfully become the persona (character and personality) of Jesus.
The Lenten messages for the first three Sundays of Lent are related to us (our personal conversion) the last three are related to Jesus (the One to whom we are to be converted).