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Third Sunday of Lent

March 11, 2007

Blessed Sunday!

Have you turned your clocks ahead yet? Daylight Savings Time started a
few hours ago & you don’t want to be late for Mass this morning!

Readings:
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 (Moses & the burning bush)
Psalm 103: 1-11 “The Lord is kind and merciful”
I Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 (beware complacency)
+Luke 13:1-9 (God will fertilize us, but if we don’t fruitfully repent,
we’ll be cut down)

Majesty and mercy…they go together

Throughout history people have had trouble accepting God as He is.
Some, who see His fierce majesty destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis
19), meeting Moses in thunder on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:16ff), and driving
the traders from the Temple (Matthew 21:12ff, Mark 11:15ff, etc.), pay
homage to this overwhelming, frightening god. They tend to become hard,
cold, judgmental people, like the god they worship. Others, who focus
on His compassion in rescuing His people from Egyptian slavery (Exodus),
forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3ff) and gathering little
children in His arms (Mark 10:13-16, Luke 15:18-17, Matthew 19:13-15),
are attracted to this gentle, merciful god. They, too, tend to become
like the god they worship: permissive, passive and timid. But there’s
only one God. We can’t take His majesty and leave His mercy, or vice
versa, without lapsing into idolatry; without worshipping a god who
doesn’t exist. Because we’re made in His image, when we worship a
caricature of God, we become a caricature of a person.

Today, all three readings bring God’s majesty and mercy into focus
together. First we see Moses going to investigate a burning bush. The
same God who warns him to come no nearer and to remove his shoes because
he’s on holy ground then proceeds to explain that He’s seen the plight
of His enslaved people and has come to rescue them. He’s not to be
trifled with. He is I AM, the self-existent One. But He cares deeply
about the suffering of His people. In our second reading, Paul refers
back to that miraculous rescue, to God’s provision of dry land in the
midst of the Red Sea, and heavenly food and water in the barren desert.
At the same time, Paul warns that many of those who had been so
marvelously rescued rebelled against God and paid with their lives.
They criticized the Almighty, presumed upon His forbearance (remember
the previous reflection on presumption?), and lost. Jesus Himself warns
that if His hearers don’t repent, they’ll be as bad off as those
featured in the local news reports–some massacred while they offered
sacrifices, others killed by a falling tower. He paints a picture of an
unfruitful fig tree that inspires the gardener’s compassion. The
gardener pleads for a second chance for the tree, promising to give it
extra nourishment and attention. But if it still doesn’t bear fruit, it
will be cut down.

This union of mercy and majesty calls forth reverence, awe and wonder.
The depths of intimacy and the heights of grandeur have been brought
together, and the fitting responses to each look strikingly similar. We
are inspired to a depth of respect, strength, humility and personal
excellence we may never have known before. We become like the God we
worship.

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