The 3rd Sunday of Lent
First Reading: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: According to St. Luke 13:1-9
The word gospel comes from the Old English words for good (god) and news (spel). The four works that tell us of the life of Jesus were originally written in Greek and were given the designation euangelion, “good news,” seemingly from a statement made by St. Paul in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians:
“Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” (15:1-2)
St. Paul goes on to describe this Good News as the events that we know as the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the heart of the Good News and all other parts of the Gospel message branch off from this core. The Good News is this: that through the Paschal Mystery the salvation that was lost in Eden has now been regained.
Despite all of this, it would be difficult for someone to come away from this week’s Gospel reading with any sense that they have been given good news. The first half of the reading details two pretty grizzly events and the listener is given no comfort when Jesus says,
“But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
Somehow the phrase “good news” doesn’t seem to come to mind when pondering these words of Jesus, yet He may never have delivered a more needed message throughout His entire ministry.
The third of the Spiritual Works of Mercy is Admonish the Sinner. As Spiritual Works of Mercy go, it seems a lot easier to Comfort the Sorrowful or Counsel the Doubtful or Pray for the Living and the Dead. Yet, that doesn’t make Admonish the Sinner any less necessary.
Maybe a good place to start is in the home with the admonishing of someone with whom you spend a lot of time. My suggestion is first and foremost to be discreet about it – there is no benefit in making a public spectacle of admonishing someone for his or her sins.
In my experience a mirror can be very helpful. Look into the mirror and you will see the person whose sins and need for repentance you will know most intimately. You can even repeat the words of Jesus: “If you do not repent, you will perish.” Coming from you it will seem very sincere – your words will be recognized as coming from someone who really cares. Hopefully the person in the mirror won’t feel that you have been judgmental and condescending. Hopefully the person in the mirror will know that you love him or her and that you are only trying to help.
Hopefully this person will take your advice to heart and decide to change for the better. Maybe a trip to confession will be in order. Maybe a sincere Act of Contrition will do the trick. Either way, let this person know that they will probably need to be admonished again in the future, and that you will be right there in the mirror to help again when the need arises.
As Jesus points out in His parable of the fig tree, the gardener needs time to make sure that the tree will bear good fruit. But time, both in the parable and in life, is not limitless. The gardener is given only a year to make the tree bear good fruit. Sadly, none of us is given that guarantee, yet the good news is that we were given today. And so let us not procrastinate: let us go to the mirror and, as difficult as it might be, let us look that person in the eye and tell him or her what has to be said. They might not like what they hear, but I guarantee that some day they will thank you for it.