The Lord is Kind and Merciful
Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; Ps 103: 1-8, 11; 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
Not only is the Lord kind and merciful (today’s Psalm), but He hears the cries of His suffering people and wants to set them free (first reading, Exodus 3) AND He is patient with those who are not YET bearing fruit (today’s Gospel, Lk. 13:9).
So many around the world may find it difficult to feel the comfort in these words, especially in places like Ukraine, Afghanistan, Syria and Ethiopia. Why does so much terror and suffering beset some people while so many others seem relatively untouched and safe? The inquirers in the Gospel today might suppose that is was because they are bad people. Jesus would remind them that things aren’t nearly that simple. Americans have felt much of the pain of the Afghan and Ukraine refugees and we are trying to help out as much as possible, but there are many limitations for many different reasons, be they logistical, political or geographical. We know for sure that we can pray to a God who is present to every person in every situation and who is merciful. That certainly helps it helps us and somehow helps permeate the world with hope.
We are also reminded that when we pray and call out to God, He is going to make us part of the response. God called Moses to give Pharaoh the bad news that He wanted the Israelites out of Egypt. God could have made Pharaoh docile or just sent in a magic carpet for the Israelites. But He made Moses the intermediary through a long and tedious process of warnings and plagues. The Israelites actually had to consent to be on the journey which would entail much struggle and danger for many years. They never knew the whole plan or the timing of events. They were told to have faith and follow the rightfully designated leaders. Also, in the parable from today’s Gospel the owner of the orchard relented in destroying the unfruitful fig tree, but only when the gardener pleaded for more time and committed to giving it some personal care.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians today he explains that many of the Israelites, in fact MOST of them, were struck down in the desert because ‘God was not pleased with them.’ They would be an example to future generations so that they would not also desire evil things. Much emphasis was put on being a good example.
Many of the suffering peoples in today’s world are having great struggles learning to build and develop stable democracies with strong accountability. Those of us who have enjoyed the great safety and prosperity of living in post-World War II America might feel a special responsibility to not only help others cope with their misery, but also to demonstrate responsible and wise living. Again the words of St. Paul could be instructive: “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” As Jesus reminds the people that the tower of Siloam fell on the bad and the good, today’s comfortable might one day be tested in order to demonstrate resilience and grace under severe trial.
Recalling that Lent is shaped by our deeper prayer, fasting and almsgiving:
Hopefully we are praying more and more deeply. At daily Mass we continue to remember specifically the war in Eastern Europe. Heaven knows Holy Mother Church is helping you find many ways to direct your almsgiving. You have been exceptionally generous in our special collections. Next week we will be taking up the annual collection for Catholic Relief Services. This is always a very important collection because it is the major international outreach by American Catholics to relieve misery in all its forms. At the present time CRS is especially positioned in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova, and Romania to help respond to the growing needs of refugees from Ukraine. Please be your usual generous selves.
So prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Fasting is making room for God in our lives. We usually think first of adjusting our food intake which is indeed the expectation, especially during Lent. This helps us be in solidarity with all the desperately hungry people in the world. But also we try to empty our minds and schedules from unnecessary distractions, temptations and mindless activity. We do this to make room for the deeper emotional and spiritual needs of ourselves and of others. As we hear more and more of the vast multitudes of homeless people and refugees throughout the world we can empathize with the many countries in closest proximity to the refugees. Often they are taking them in despite their own desperate situations. This is a good time to consider our ability to make room for the growing multitudes of desperate people. How can we model the lifestyles that enable us to reach out while also maintaining a sense of peace and a sustainable, esthetic environment?
The world views of Moses and St. Paul are constantly considering the example of their ancestors and future needs of generations of descendants when making decisions. This is our charge as well. How do we make room for the miserable and desperate while maintaining a vision of peace and justice for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren? These are huge questions that draw on something bigger than our social and political ideologies. They require real prayer and real fasting…. In all of this, God is with us…..
As we now continue with this holy Mass let us be especially open to how the Holy Spirit is stretching our hearts and our lives…