3rd Sunday in Lent, Cycle C
20th March, 2022
Sunday Church at Home
during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
Listening to the Call of God.
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Lent is a time to re-prioritise the place of Jesus Christ in our lives and to turn more deeply to him, trusting in his mercy and love.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Exodus 3:1-8a.13-15
Introduction to the reading:
When he was a young man, Moses had slain an Egyptian official, and he had to flee into the desert near Mount Sinai (sometimes called Mount Horeb). In the ensuing years, he settled down, married and worked as a shepherd. Now, probably thinking he had a quiet future, his life takes a different turn.
A reading from the Book of Exodus.
In those days:
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro,
the priest of Midian;
and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness,
and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire
out of the midst of a bush,
and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning,
yet it was not consumed.
And Moses said,
“I will turn aside and see this great sight,
why the bush is not burnt.”
When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see,
God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!”
And he said, “Here am I.”
Then he said, “Do not come near;
put off your shoes from your feet,
for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
And he said, “I am the God of your father,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
And Moses hid his face,
for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said,
“I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt
and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters;
I know their sufferings,
and I have come down to deliver them
out of the hand of the Egyptians,
and to bring them up out of that land
to a good and broad land, a land
flowing with milk and honey.”
Then Moses said to God,
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them,
‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’
and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’
what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”
And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel,
‘I am has sent me to you.’”
God also said to Moses,
“Say this to the people of Israel,
‘The Lord, the God of your ancestors,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you’:
this is my name forever,
and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-2.3-4.6-7.8 and 11 (R. 8a)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all within me, his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and never forget all his benefits.
It is the Lord who forgives all your sins,
who heals every one of your ills,
who redeems your life from the grave,
who crowns you with mercy and compassion,
The Lord does just deeds,
gives full justice to all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
and his deeds to the children of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and rich in mercy.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so strong his mercy for those who fear him.
R/. The Lord is compassionate and gracious.
Second reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
Introduction to the reading: Paul did not want his Corinthian converts to be overconfident. They were saved by their faith in Jesus, but they still needed to live a daily life pleasing to God. (In this passage, we will hear Paul refer to an interesting piece of Jewish folklore not found in the Bible. The legend is that the rock from which God gave them water followed them wherever they went in their desert wanderings.)
A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud,
and all passed through the sea,
and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
and all ate the same supernatural food
and all drank the same supernatural drink.
For they drank from the supernatural Rock
which followed them,
and the Rock was Christ.
Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased;
for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now, these things are warnings for us,
not to desire evil as they did.
nor grumble, as some of them did
and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
Now, these things happened to them as a warning,
but they were written down for our instruction,
upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands
take heed lest he fall.
The Word of the Lord.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Repent, says the Lord, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ.
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
There were some present at that very time
who told Jesus of the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
And he answered them,
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners
than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus?
I tell you, No;
but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell
and killed them,
do you think that they were worse offenders
than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, No;
but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
And he told this parable:
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard,
and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.
And he said to the vinedresser,
‘Behold, these three years I have come
seeking fruit on this fig tree,
and I find none.
Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’
And he answered him,
‘Let it alone, sir, this year also,
till I dig about it and put on manure.
And if it bears fruit next year,
well and good;
but if not, you can cut it down.’”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Nicky Gumbel in the Alpha course tells us of a man who sent a cheque to the government for back taxes with a note attached that said: “I felt so guilty for cheating on my taxes I had to send you this cheque. If I don’t feel any better, I’ll send you the rest.” 😊
Pause for a moment. I would like you to think of God. How would you describe God? What is your name for God? Comforter? Judge? Helper? Tester? Saviour? We could go on and on.
Some people name God based on what they think are God’s actions in their lives. So, if I have lots of possessions and a good life my name for God might be, “the Beneficent One,” i.e., God who rewards me for the good I do. If I am miserable and have suffered one disaster or failure after another, I may name God as “Judge” – the one who punishes me for stepping out of line.
It is hard to name God based on human experience. After all, who has perfect insights into God and can come up with a name that captures the true essence of God?
Then there is Moses, who was given a name for God to take back to the Israelites.
Moses was the child of Hebrew slaves and raised in pharaoh’s house in Egypt. But he had to flee when he killed an Egyptian who was abusing a slave. The first reading today finds Moses in the wilderness of Midian. He is not far from Horeb, God’s holy mountain. But he is not on the mountain praying and fasting, he is working, shepherding his father in-law’s sheep.
The Israelites are in drastic need and God does what God always does; takes the initiative. The Hebrew people are enslaved, and God wants to free them. So, God finds Moses in his daily activities and invites him to become a different type of shepherd – God’s shepherd assigned to lead God’s people to freedom.
God is in a hurry and so puts on and eye-catching display to attract Moses: a burning bush that is not consumed by fire. That gets Moses’ attention so that God can speak to him. I do not experience burning bushes, nor do I hear God’s voice directing the next stages of my life, or clearly giving me an important task.
Still, I try to be attentive when someone who cares for me gives me advice, or a correction on my behaviour. Or, I may be reading the Scriptures and a line jumps out at me and speaks to something I’m struggling over. Like Moses, these and so many other “attention-getters,” are signs that I need to “listen up,” for God has a word for me.
When a word or event does get my attention, Moses is a good guide for my listening. Like so many prophets, Moses first and most appropriate response is, “Here I am.” Moses is being called by God to do something. He needs to be attentive to God who has very good intentions for God’s enslaved people.
Moses is told to take off his sandals because the ground he is standing on is holy. In the Middle East guests are invited to remove their sandals before entering the tent.
Moses experiences powerful signs. He sees an angel of God. He sees the burning bush. He hears God calling his name clearly. All of these tell Moses that he is in the presence of the Most High, who cannot be casually approached.
God is the host and Moses the guest who will receive God’s hospitality. He must take off his sandals in the holy presence. It is as if two friends have gotten together, and God is expressing deep concern for what God has “witnessed.” God is not a newcomer on the scene. God had made a covenant with Moses’ ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and now has heard and seen the desperate needs of God’s covenanted people.
God is no distant potentate who does not feel the suffering and misery of people. At this moment, Ukraine has been invaded by a powerful and well-equipped Russian army. Over a million and a half refugees have fled, mostly the elderly, mothers and children, to the safety of neighbouring countries.
This war is just one of many happening right now. The list includes civil wars and armed insurgencies in Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Mexico, Congo, Ethiopia, Libya, and a number of other places. Certainly, God has witnessed their pain and heard the wailing of their little ones.
The call of Moses reminds us that God is not an idle spectator to so much suffering. Then, why isn’t God doing something to relieve the pain of so many innocent victims?
Perhaps God is. God may be the very source behind humanitarian aid rushing to the refugees. All around the world, not just governments, but ordinary people, are contributing supplies for the besieged in the country and the refugees in the surrounding countries; offering them shelter, food, medical supplies, toys, and hospitality.
Is it enough? Is God’s response to pain scanty? Not according to what Moses hears of God’s plan for the suffering and enslaved Hebrews. Perhaps God is attempting to do much more for the victims of, scatter bombs, starvation, fear and death. World leaders may not have taken up Moses’ prophetic mantle to speak out more forcefully against the atrocities we are observing on videos each day from the war zone. What’s more, God will not give up witnessing the people’s pain and calling forth other prophets to speak up and act on God’s behalf.
Perhaps, I, myself, am not doing enough as I hear today’s Exodus proclamation. We are like Moses. We have been about our usual jobs and daily tasks. Then God has called us to “remove our sandals,” i.e., realize we are on holy ground. God has a word to say to us as individuals and as a church.
What are we, our clergy, the bishops, and Pope hearing? How shall we respond? Like Moses, we just can’t hear something from God and let it end there. “Here I am,” we say to God, “What must I do?” Right now, I am not sure, maybe I should take a couple tentative steps and keep listening.
It’s what Moses did as he led the people to freedom, step by step. He kept listening because God had more to reveal to him and the people. God’s plan for all of us is to free us from the burden of sin and lead us home, to the place God is preparing for us. But meanwhile I must respond to the Exodus voice I hear, “”Here I am Lord. Speak your servant is listening.”
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said to the people,
“There was once a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it, but found none,
he said to the gardener, ‘For three years I have come in search of fruit
on this fig tree but have found none.
So cut it down.’”
Lent is an appropriate time to reflect whether we have procrastinated in making important changes in our lives. The parable of the fruitless fig tree has a note of hope about it. A year of grace is given it; one more chance, with extra care, devoted to it to bear fruit.
So, we ask ourselves:
- What touched me in the readings today?
- What area of my life feels fruitless and needs attention?
- What must be “pruned” so I can bear good fruit?
Prayer of the Faithful
With confidence in God our Father, let us turn to him in our need and for the needs of the world.
We pray for the Pope and the bishops, as the shepherds of the Church: (pause)
that they will be ever more open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Peace in countries where there is conflict and violence, especially the Ukraine: (pause)
that their leaders will lay down their arms and seek peaceful ways of resolving conflicts.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those people driven from their countries by warfare and famine: (pause)
that they will be made welcome in those countries that are rich in resources and opportunity.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for families in the midst of their daily challenges: (pause)
that children will find safety and love in their homes.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US.
Leader: PRAYER FOR LENT
LORD JESUS CHRIST,
by your passion, death and resurrection
you have set us free from sin and death.
May your grace renew our hearts this Lent
and help us turn from sin in our own lives.
May we learn to appreciate more deeply
the sacrifice you made for us.
Accept our prayer, fasting and acts of charity
as we seek to draw closer to you during this holy season.
Strengthen the faith of your people
so that we may be a sign of your love to all the world.
Lord Jesus, you live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul at least spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
God of salvation,
we stand before you on holy ground,
for your name is glorified
and your mercy revealed
wherever your mighty deeds are remembered.
Since you are holy and forbearing,
turn us from every rash and shallow judgement
to seek the ways of repentance.
We ask this through Christ, our deliverance and hope,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one holy and mighty God for ever and ever.
The leader says:
May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.