This third Sunday in Lent is an opportune time to evaluate how our Lenten journey is progressing. Ash Wednesday and all the resolutions that we made on that solemn day are no longer quite so sharply defined in our minds and we are dealing with the reality of implementing the holy and noble practices that we sincerely intended to offer in atonement for our sins.
For many of us, the journey is becoming harder. It is not that we do not want to make sacrifices or that we do not seek to draw closer to our God. It is just that the affairs of the world have begun to intrude and what appeared so vital and so desirable just three weeks ago is being crowded out by other concerns and other distractions.
It is so difficult to find adequate time and even space to increase and to improve our prayer life. Perhaps our prayer time is tedious, monotonous, a meaningless repetition of words which really do not reach our God because we find it so hard to focus on what we are saying. Barriers, internal and external, are raised defiantly to frustrate the intimacy that we seek with the Saviour. Perhaps we have begun to doubt the real efficacy of prayer.
We may also be seeing a reduction in our almsgiving. Our great intentions may be giving way before the bills and obligations that we cannot practically ignore. We present to ourselves valid reasons why we cannot or should not be as generous with our proverbial pennies as we had intended. After all, times are hard and self-deprivation seems to add to our burdens and makes us feel secretly a bit resentful that a portion of our hard-earned money is no longer ours.
Fasting, whether from food, the use of technological devices or from some other activity or bodily delight was strictly observed on Ash Wednesday and perhaps in those first days of Lent. The remaining days of this holy season stretch endlessly before us.
Good Friday will see us fast again but if we are honest with ourselves, we may do so because we know that it is obligatory for Catholics or alternatively because it is one of our cultural rather than spiritual norms.
Today’s gospel (Lk 13:1– 9) gives us both a warning that we must not ignore the encouragement from which we can take heart. The fig tree will be cut down if it does not produce fruit. None of us is free from the divine command that we must repent of our sins. We are warned: But I tell you, if you do not repent, You will all perish as they did!
We are consoled and strengthened however, by the knowledge that God’s mercy is great and beyond our understanding. His infinite patience allows us another opportunity to be ‘cultivated’ and ‘fertilised’ during this holy season, regardless of the many times that we have failed Him in the past.
May we all, unworthy as we are, rejoice in the ‘pruning’ that will help us to bear good fruit and be pleasing to our Divine Creator.