Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent Year C
Theme: The dialogue
By: Fr. Jude Chijioke
Homily for Sunday March 20 2022
Exodus 3.1-8.13-15; 1 Corinthians 10,1-6.10-12; Luke 13: 1-9
“There an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush… God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry…, I have come down to rescue them…” Moses said to God: “But when I go to the Israelites …, if they ask me, ‘what is his name? what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am”. Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. (Ex 3).
“There once was 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 now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. He said to him in reply: Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.” (Lk 13).
Searching for subtle links that exist between liturgical readings especially for Sundays and solemnities is not always easy to do. In today’s readings we could find a unifying thread based on a great human and religious sign, that of dialogue. In a dialogue there is always a person who initiates a conversation, asking the other person who can choose to react negatively and then the dialogue is broken or accept the proposal and the dialogue flourishes, and then, can turn into a discovery, awakening, communion, friendship, love.
Our first reading from chapter 3 of the Exodus is a representation of an absolute beginning of a dialogue between God and man: God, suddenly emerged on the horizon of life of the exiled Moses and revealed to him his secret name. It is the first and fundamental measure of the dialogue of Revelation and one of the highest gifts of God to humanity. In the whole Semitic world, a name is the reality itself that it represents in all its being and strength. Knowing a person’s name involves a kind of power over the being of the person in question. Exorcists over time have insisted that knowing the name of a demon is as powerful as casting it out. In magical religions, knowing the name of a divinity means having the possibility of manipulating and dominating its power to one’s advantage, thus reducing it to a fragment at the mercy of man.
The name of God, “I am who am” from Exodus indicates that God does not reveal himself in a noun but in a verb, that is, in an active and not static and inert form, as it is for an idol. In this verb Christian philosophy has intuited the most perfect being of God, the cause of every other being; others instead see a subtle controversy with idols, being God “he who is” against the gods who are nothing; still others think of the “eternal”, he who is always, or the “faithful”, he who is always the same, without changing according to historical phases.
Next, the first sentence God pronounces in his dialogue with us is very important, it widens and becomes concrete in freedom, this sentence was also described by Paul with his evocation of the passage of the sea, of the gift of manna and water in the desert. But this first and decisive sentence of the dialogue between God and man is now replaced by man’s reply. It is represented in its negative form through series of symbols present in the second and gospel readings. First, there is the “grumbling” evoked by Paul. In biblical language it indicates unbelief, rejection, distrust. The parable of Jesus, on the other hand, uses the symbol of the fruit absent in a uselessly leafy tree. It is the story of an interior dryness that is not touched even by the voice of God.
Yet Jesus shows that it is possible to change the “no” of the first hour, it is possible to weave a serene and fruitful dialogue between God and man. This is what he expresses with the verb “to repent” and that he covers with two elements, the chronicles and parable. At the center of the chronicle there are two “black” episodes: a brutal repression by the Roman police inside the temple and the tragedy of the 18 victims following the collapse of the tower of Siloam. Jesus does not want to align with those who love to see the finger of God as judge in misfortunes. Their story has a meaning precisely for us who are alive. The story is short and to the point; the dialogue that God initiates with us cannot be allowed to fall on deaf ears.
The parable on the other hand is in line with the chronicles. In it the dialogue between the owner of the vineyard and the farmer is decisive. Between the father (the master) and the son (the farmer) a relationship of intercession is established for arid and indifferent humanity (the fig tree). Christ therefore tries to tie the threads of a dialogue that man ignores or even allows to die. Christ does not want the work of the “three years” of his ministry to be useless and begs the Father to wait another year for this tree, which is humanity, to finally blossom, to flourish, to bear fruit in a response of love and justice.
Fr. Jude Chijioke