3rd Sunday of Lent - March 24, 2019 (Thoman)

Scripture: Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15, I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12

I. Our parish alms-giving project for this year is divided between two causes: one
is a home mission cause, namely, the YM/YWCA Domestic Service Shelter and the
other is a Church foreign mission cause – The Pontifical Mission Institute. I
proposed the Pontifical Mission Institute for our parish project this year because
I have been involved with them for about 30 years. I would like to tell the story of
how I got connected with them.

In the first years of priesthood I was teaching in our central Catholic High
Schools, a ministry I dearly loved! But even though it was an engaging ministry,
I always felt I wanted to do “something more” beyond the classroom, beyond my
daily ministry in Catholic education. For a long time I puzzled over what that
might be since I did not have a lot of extra time to be involved in something
else. Eventually it occurred to me that I could participate in the Church’s foreign
mission work by supporting a child in a foreign country. Again I delayed because
I did not know of Catholic ministries who did this or how to get started. Finally,
through another priest in the archdiocese, I got information about the Pontifical
Mission Institute…I wrote away for information…and signed up to adopt a child.
I distinctly recall the day I received the envelope of information in the mail…
a picture of the child, a brief biography, an “adoption” certificate. During a class
break I was reviewing this information and – to my surprise – was suddenly
overcome with emotion!

I think the reason was that I was finally doing something…I wasn’t just
“thinking” about it…I wasn’t just hoping to find something someday…but, after a
long time of procrastination, I finally took the step to take some action. Now I felt
like I was doing something very specific in the Church’s foreign mission work.

II. That is a kind of “repentance.”
Repentance is a turning away from something and, most especially, turning
towards God. Often times we think of that in terms of sin. But if we are changing
from a routine pattern, or inertia, or inaction and move towards action which is
God’s will for us, then we can consider that as repentance as well.
For example, the first reading finds Moses in the desert tending the sheep of
his father-in-law, Jethro. Recall…Moses is actually hiding from the Pharaoh of
Egypt. Moses had killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and so Moses
fled from Egypt, met Jethro’s daughter, married her and is now working for
Jethro. One day he comes across this burning bush that is not consumed by the
fire and so he goes over to check it out…only to have an encounter with God who
asks him to go back to Egypt and work to free his people. Initially Moses resists,
but with a little encouragement from God, Moses agrees to go back to Egypt. One
can well imagine that Moses had a lot of time to think out there in the desert and
perhaps he was feeling a desire, or need, to do something different or “more,” for
his people. God’s invitation came at the perfect time.

This is a kind of repentance: changing from inaction, from just tending sheep,
to more fully living God’s will.
And in the gospel Jesus calls for repentance. He uses the two stories about the
Pilot’s slaughter of some Galileans and the sudden collapse of a tower to make a
bigger point – and the point is the importance of repenting sooner rather than
later. Those people in those tragedies died suddenly and unexpectedly. Jesus
uses that as an opportunity to say we should all be ready to repent – that is, to
change, to turn towards God and more fully live God’s will.

III. So what is on your heart today?
Are there things that have been nagging you? Have you felt…I should do that…
I should visit that person…I’d like to volunteer at that place…call my cousin…help
my neighbor…. Do you have a sense you should take some action in some part of
your life….do you feel you need to move out of thinking nice things or just plain
inertia…to some more specific way of acting, to more clearly doing God’s will?
This week (Thursday) marks the mid-point of Lent – still time to get started
this Lent. And as the gospel parable tells us…the gardener wants to give the fig
tree another chance, another year, to produce fruit. God is patient with us, but
God’s patience is an invitation to repent more fully, to turn more towards God’s
will – but we can procrastinate too long and it is too late!

-- Fr. Dwayne Thoman