Fr. Gerald Musa Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY
By: Fr. Gerald Musa
Homily for Sunday March 20 2022
There was a Greek statue which is called OPPORTUNITY. It stands on its toes to show how quickly it passes by; it has long hair on the forehead so that people who meet it can grab it; it is bald at the back to show that once it passes, it cannot be caught. This statue of opportunity tells us that when an opportunity is gone, it is impossible to recall it. Every day God offers us ample time and countless opportunities to grow, to change our ways, to rediscover our true identity, to renew our strength, to excel and blossom.
Sometimes, we think we have failed God and are beyond redemption, but we forget that God listens to the cries of those who sincerely pray for liberation as he listened to the cry of the people of Israel. God called Moses out of the bush and offered him and the Israelites an opportunity for liberation from slavery. He said to Moses: “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…” (Exodus 3:7-8). This message tells us God is aware of our afflictions and is constantly willing to save us and take us wherever we can find happiness and peace. He did not just promise to liberate the Israelites from slavery, but he also promised to take them to a broad land flowing with milk and honey.
It is one thing to have an opportunity and it is another thing to make the best use of the opportunity. History shows that most of the Israelites who had the opportunity to go to the Promised Land did not see the Promised Land. The Apostle Paul confirmed this fact when he said, God was not pleased with most of them because they wasted the opportunity given to them and took things for granted. They lost the opportunity given to them because of their disobedience. For this reason, the Apostle issued a stack warning to the people of Corinth to learn from the desert experience of the Israelites. The Corinthians were boasting that baptism is sufficient for salvation. The Apostle asked how baptism can be sufficient for salvation. He argued that Baptism can never be an automatic ticket to heaven. He compared baptism to the Old Testament crossing of the Sea of Reeds and said the Israelites crossed it, but died before entering the Promised Land because of their sins. These people lost a precious opportunity offered by God.
Jesus teaches us how to make the best use of opportunities given to us. He tells us never to judge people for their suffering and misfortune, but rather to see every sad event as an opportunity for repentance. He challenged a belief that was prevalent among the Jews which says misfortune comes to people as a result of their past sins. This kind of belief is still common among many cultures in the world and widespread in Africa where any misfortune is attributed to a sin committed in the past by the afflicted person, the parents, or ancestors. Jesus gave an example with the Galileans whom Pilate killed at the temple, mingling their blood with the sacrifice and the 18 people on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed. Jesus asked if these misfortunes happened to them because they were worse sinners. He said, “Unless you repent, you will all perish as they did” (Luke 13:5).
Therefore, it is wrong to interpret these events as divine punishment upon the people who died, but rather to understand the tragedies as a warning to those who are alive. When we link people’s misfortune to their sin – we may be taking the path of self-righteousness and putting up a ‘holier than thou attitude.’ Scripture says, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands to take heed lest he falls” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Sad events provide us with an opportunity for sober reflection, soul searching, and repentance. We should spend less time judging the misfortune of other people, but consider these sad events as an opportunity for sober reflection, soul searching, and repentance.
In addition, Jesus gives a parable of a fig tree planted in the vineyard which did not produce fruits three years after plantation. The owner was set to cut it down when the vinedresser (gardener) intervened and asked that the tree be given another chance. In asking for more time, the vineyard dresser said, “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” (Luke 13:8). The fig was given a one-year ultimatum. The patience of the gardener shows the patience of God who gives us a second chance and another opportunity.
God is kind, good, and patient and continues to give us opportunities to change. Padre Pio tells us “Divine goodness does not only NOT reject penitent souls, but goes out in search of obstinate souls.” This is to say that God accepts those who repent and goes constantly in search of those who appear to be irredeemably and pathologically stubborn. However, when life is over there will be no hope for repentance and all opportunities would have been exhausted. The Psalmist prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Every new year and every new day, new hour, and moment are opportunities offered to us by God for growth, improvement, repentance, change, and progress. Like a fruitful tree, He wants us to grow, to blossom, and be fruitful. He wants to take pride in us, He wants us to continue to rise and shine and be advertisements of his grace at work in us. An unknown writer says,
“If you have hard work to do, do it now…
If you have a song to sing, sing it now…
If you have kind words to say, say them now…
If you have a smile to show, show it now…”
Lent is a time of repentance and an opportunity to open a new page in our lives. It is a time of liberation and a season of change. Lent is a special time to amend our ways, purify the heart and renew the spirit. God offers each person time (second chance) and grace (manure) to change and be more fruitful. Do we take his patience and grace for granted? Can we examine the things that take most of our time and learn to use our time and opportunities wisely?
Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9; 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C.