Third Sunday of Lent
February 28, 2016
Fr. José Maria Cortex, F.S.C.B.

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In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the fig tree. The fig tree has not produced fruit for three years. The owner wants to cut it down. However, the gardener asks for some more time. He will take better care of the fig tree, hoping that it may bear fruit in the future (cf Lk 13:6–9).

This parable made me think about my life. Am I producing the fruits that God wants me to produce? I think this is a question that we all have to ask Jesus when we pray.

How can our lives be fruitful?  What are the fruits that Our Lord expects us to produce?

Before telling the parable, Jesus talks about the urgency of repentance. The fruits that Christ wants from us are the fruits of  repentance.  Why should I repent if I am a good citizen, pay taxes, am nice to my neighbors and go to church on Sundays? Is this message for me? Maybe Jesus is only speaking about the bad people I see around me every day. In the second reading, Saint Paul says: “[…] whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12).

If we do not feel the urgency of repentance, something is wrong with our Christian life. It could be a problem of pride, a lack of simplicity or just that God is removed from our lives. Not recognizing oneself as a sinner is usually indicative of hidden pride or an immature spiritual life.

I was struck by the final tweet sent by Pope Benedict XVI: “[…] May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the center of your lives” (February 28, 2013).

To repent means to allow Christ to be the center of our lives. Is Christ really the center of our lives? When our center is somewhere else, we do not know how to experience the deep joy described by the Pope Emeritus.

Moses experienced the mystery of God in a burning bush. When Moses was tending his flock, he was attracted by a bush that was mysteriously on fire. It was God who attracted him and who called him by name: “Moses! Moses!” Unexpectedly, Moses entered into a dialogue with God, in which the name of God was revealed to him. Moses entered into the intimacy of God. Moses is transformed by this encounter. His life changes radically. He finds a new mission in life: to be a collaborator in the liberation of his people.

Moses was transformed by God’s fire. This is a great example of what repentance means. Repentance is a fruit that comes from our dialogue with Christ. More than ever, we need to cultivate our relationship with Our Lord. According to the theologian Karl Rahner: “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will not exist at all” (Theological Investigations XX, 149).

Lent is a time of desert. It is a time to rediscover God’s presence in our lives. It is a time for us to be surprised, as Moses was, by God’s initiative toward us. Lent is a time to let our lives become more fruitful.

This year, in a special way with the Chair of Peter empty, all the Church is called to convert more profoundly to the Chief Pastor, Christ Our Lord. Let us pray for the election of the new Pope to be a fruit of the path of repentance that the Church is taking these days.

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