3rd Sunday Lent: Bearing Fruit Abundantly

03-13-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Bing Colasito

Scriptures provide us with hundreds of proofs that God’s mercy knows no bounds. In the New Testament, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection makes evident His love and power over sin and death. The forgiveness of sins is possible through the Paschal Mystery and the mediation of the Church. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained (Jn. 20:23). God forgives sins, and He never tires forgiving sins. But it is in the sacrament of reconciliation that He forgives sins, and He completely blots out all our offenses. Jesus is the Divine Mercy; through the absolution, the priest gives in the Sacrament of Penance - restores the penitent to the grace to act with charity, and grow in love with Him.

In the second reading, St. Paul, going back to the experience of Israel during their exodus - reminds his listeners how God favors and loves the chosen people. Throughout the forty years of their sojourn in the desert, He provided them with food, manna, and water from the rock. The way God cares for them throughout the forty years is the best proof of His goodness and commitment to their physical and spiritual well-being. But the people of Israel persist in their stubbornness - disobedient to God, they perished before entering the land promised to them. The whole experience of the people of Israel in the desert should serve as an example to all. Let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he fails! A good lesson for all; in the desert pilgrimage of life - learn from the experience of Israel, not to be disobedient to God but follow and trust Him with all our heart. The great test of life is obedience, and the way to pass it is through humility.

From Abraham, Isaac, Jacob to Moses, we see in every encounter with God that He wants to establish a relationship with the chosen people in the context of a covenant of love. Every covenant symbolizes His desire to save His people and give them freedom. So that the invitation of Jesus to repentance flows from this covenant of love, that in effect He is saying: But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! It is a call to repentance, a change of heart that moves us to extend compassion towards our neighbor. If we keep our baptismal promises and the covenant with God, the Scriptures say: A humble and contrite heart, God will not spurn.

Jesus in the Gospel tells us about the parable of a fruitless fig tree. The owner did not cut down the tree immediately; even though it yields no fruit, he gives a second chance for the fig tree to bear fruits. And also, because the gardener intercedes on behalf of the barren tree and proceeds to cultivate and fertilize it - so that it may bear fruit eventually. God is a patient God. He is a God who waits, who gives everyone a second chance - countless opportunities for us to grow, improve ourselves, and bear fruit. But there are limits to everything. Thus, we cannot and should not abuse the love and generosity of God. Remember what Jesus said to the devil in one of His temptations: You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test (Dt. 6:16). Let us meet Him halfway and desist being stubborn and proud of heart. If today we hear His voice, harden our hearts!

Jesus comes to establish a new covenant of God and His people. The Parable of the Fig Tree illustrates part of the commitment of God in this covenant. The tree in the parable represents all of us, and Jesus is the gardener. He intercedes for us to the orchard owner, God the Father. Like any gardener, Jesus cultivates, waters, fertilizes, and removes the weeds patiently, hoping that all of His hard work will yield a fruitful harvest. The labor of love of Jesus confirms the new covenant, and His death ratifies it.

May Jesus reminds us that life is not about receiving; but about giving and bearing fruits.