Thursday, February 25, 2016

Third Sunday of Lent Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Failure of Jesus

All of us have experienced failure in life. Some have failed in a test or examination. Others have failed in a more serious matter, in marriage or in rearing children or in a financial undertaking. Still others have failed in a still greater degree, in maintaining a healthy lifestyle which eventually led to death. We can identify therefore with a man who also failed many hundreds of years ago in the mountains and plains of Judea. This is the failure we are going to reflect upon today.

I am not referring to the failure of Jesus as mentioned by Pope Francis when he visited the United States in September 2015. In that homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City, Pope Francis said that from a human point of view Jesus' life ended as a failure because it ended in a shameful death on the cross. (By the way, this statement of the Pope drew adverse reactions, mostly from non-Catholics who did not take into consideration the context it was said.) I am referring to the failure of Jesus as described by the Gospel reading today.

In the second part of the Gospel for today there is a parable about a fig tree in a vineyard which was found to have no fruit for three years. The owner of that tree said to the vine-dresser, the man cultivating it, to cut it down. But the vine-dresser told the owner to wait for another year. He promised to hoe around it and fertilize it, hoping that the following year it would bear fruit. He agreed with the owner that if it still would not bear fruit, then it would be cut down.

There is an incident in the life of Jesus wherein he cursed an actual fig tree because he found no fruit in it and it withered immediately (Matthew 21:18-19). But Jesus used this instance to teach about faith. This withering of the fig tree can be seen by us as the physical fulfillment of the parable in the Gospel.

The parable of Jesus is easy to understand now. He referred to the nation Israel where he labored for 3 years but it did not bear the fruit that he expected, belief  in him as the one sent by God to save the nation. God is the owner of this nation which he formed in the desert after the Israelites escaped Egypt. God wanted to abandon Jesus' work among the Jews. But Jesus, the vine-dresser in the parable, bargained for one more year.

Jesus was given his wish but at the end of that extra year the nation Israel still did not repent and accept Jesus as their longed-for Messiah or King. Jesus felt keenly the effect of this failure of his that he cried over it. In Luke's Gospel we read that Jesus wept over Jerusalem because he saw the effects of its rejection of him as its rightful king: the temple would be completely destroyed; men, women and children would be slaughtered; and those remaining alive would be scattered all over the earth. It was a most pitiable sight for Jesus to see but he could do nothing about it because he was rejected. This was his failure. He could not prevent this total destruction and slaughter of his own people, especially very young children who were completely unaware about the sins of their parents and grandparents.

Jesus failed but not for long. He succeeded to pay the price for our sinfulness by his suffering and death on the cross, he rose victorious from the dead and was elevated to the highest heaven as the right hand of God, as the Lord and King of all. Then he sent his Spirit among us to live in us and to work through us so that one by one the nations would acknowledge his kingship. When all the nations have acknowledged that Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Messiah King, then Israel which became again a nation in May 14, 1948 will also acknowledge him as its Messiah. By that time Jesus would have complete success.

The Spirit of Jesus is at work among us today to compensate for the failure of Jesus during his lifetime in Palestine. He leads us by ways some of which are unknown to us so that more and more people will become real followers of Jesus. Amidst the suffering and persecutions which we endure from our own wrong doing, from the manipulations of the world and the devil, Jesus' Spirit is with us to make us agents of the spread of his kingdom so that nations will acknowledge his lordship.

Lent is an appropriate time to reflect on our role as agents of Jesus for a new world, one where love reigns supreme.

Let us bow down our heads to pray.

Lord Jesus, you failed once among your own people. We will not allow you to fail this time. Use us to accomplish your purpose among the nations. Amen.

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