Our merciful Lord listens to sinners who cry out to him. He takes no pleasure in their death, but in their repentance, so that they may live and bear much fruit.
Jesus makes it clear that we are all in need of repentance. He warns that if we do not repent, we will perish just like those who, in our view, deserved death as punishment for their sins.
Indeed, Jesus teaches us not to consider ourselves not needing repentance. Such teaching is even more crucial in times of prosperity, when we easily forget the warning:
Whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.
Affluent, we find it difficult to resist the temptation to consider ourselves righteous, reasoning that if we were not so, we would not be enjoying so many good things. We may possibly think we are worthy also to stand before God, stepping on holy ground without taking off our sandals. We could even play the arrogant rich who accuses unfortunate people of laziness and of all kinds of vices.
In other words, repentance means change of mind and perspective that will prevent us from envying the wicked as we see them prosper, and will stop us from prejudging as blessed those who are not afflicted like others, or as accursed those in misery. To repent is to refrain from doing what we unconsciously do frequently: portray ourselves as admirable religious practitioners at the expense of those we despise.
Repentance, moreover, is to bear much fruit, which entails cleansing or pruning. To repent, then, is to mortify ourselves in some way, letting ourselves be cut and slashed, twisted and torn.
And mortification may be in the form that St. Vincent de Paul indicates when he advises (SV.FR X:3):
It is time to pray; if you hear the poor calling for you, mortify yourselves and leave God for God ….
But what is fundamental in repentance, whatever form it takes, is pointed out in the first proclamation Jesus makes in Mark’s gospel:
This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.
And since Jesus personifies the Gospel in a sublime way, to repent is no more and no less than to believe in Jesus and to follow him. Those who truly believe in him and become his disciples, knowing him intimately because of their familiarity with the gospels, exchange their way of being, acting and living for that of the Teacher.
They go about announcing to the poor the Good News and assisting them in every way. Thus, one with Jesus, they turn into “bread … conforming to every taste” and into wine that warns hearts.
Lord Jesus, may we love you and our neighbor so that our sins are covered.
February 28, 2016
3rd Sunday of Lent (C)
Ex 3, 1-8a. 13-15; 1 Cor 10, 1-6. 10-12; Lk 13, 1-9