Exodus 3:1-8,13-15, 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12, Luke 13:1-9
There is this inspiring story of two siblings, Emeka and Chidalu, who loved their grandmother so much. Every year they take it as an obligation to visit their lovely grandmother and stay with her at least for a few months before the school reopens.
The grandmother who also loves them so much will always take them around the villages, streams and family relatives whenever they come on a visit. She is a poultry farmer.
So, as usual, one day the two beloved siblings went to stay with the grandmother for a few remaining weeks before school resumed.
Every morning, as usual, the grandmother will share duties among them. One day, the mother asks the elder brother Emeka to take charge of their poultry that day, so that he can feed the fowls.
As Emeka tried to open the door of the farm, he did not when the door mistakenly hit one of the fowls and it died. Emeka was so afraid because of this. Because He would not want anything that would make her grandmother angry with him.
He told Chidalu what happened and the little sister promised to hide the secret but under one condition; if he would accept to do whatever that she asks.
Emeka agreed because he was afraid.
So, on that fateful evening, the grandmother asked Chidalu to cook the night food, and Chidalu immediately looked at Emeka. Emeka understood the sign and went to the kitchen and prepared the meal.
The grandmother noticed that but kept silent. After dinner that night, the mother still asked Chidalu to wash all the plates. Chidalu immediately looked at Emeka.
Emeka also did not question the sign, he immediately went and washed the plates. This continued for three days, then Emeka decided to confront Chidalu because the load was becoming so burdensome for Him.
Immediately, he wanted to open his mouth, Chidalu said to Him “ I will tell mama”. Emeka immediately closed His mouth and pleaded for forgiveness.
Then the following day, mama asked Chidalu to clean and sweep the whole compound. Chidalu immediately again looked at Emeka.
Emeka also immediately swept the compound. But while doing this one, he said to himself that it was because of the little mistake that He did, that He has played himself in the hands of Chidalu and allowed her to keep him in bondage. So, the best way to free himself of this bondage is to be open and tell mama everything.
Emeka did and went to mama, immediately he opened his mouth to say I’m sorry mama for killing one of the fowls.
The grandmother said to him “my son, I knew everything that happened all this while but am waiting for you to come back.
You are my son and I cannot kill you for what you did, I am always already to forgive and save you but you allowed yourself to be kept in bondage all these times. Get up and sin no more”. That was the end of the bondage.
When we also read the readings of today, we will observe that one thing about God is that He is ever ready to forgive and save us. He is ready to give us another chance to bear fruits. God is ready to save us from sin, but we have neglected and turned our back on Him. We have allowed ourselves to be put in bondage like Emeka.
Every day, we allow the devil to remind us of our sins and our mistakes. Because of that, we feel so guilty even to confess our sins and return to God again. God is always ready to save and forgive us again.
Our coming into this world is to bear the fruits of goodness, holiness, peace etc. Even though we have failed to do this, God continues to be patient with us, giving us second chances to be better. This shows his love for us and readiness to forgive us and save us from damnation.
A Little Digest.
The first reading of today expresses God’s readiness to save the people of Israelites during slavery in Egypt. He hears their cry and now has come to save them.
This expresses God’s love for humanity and readiness to help those who call on him in times of trouble.
It is this God’s love that still kept us alive despite our unworthiness.
This has a direct relationship with the gospel reading. For, In the gospel reading Jesus referred to a fig tree to explain Gods’ readiness and willingness to save us. This is what makes Him patient with us despite our unworthiness.
The fig tree has already stayed for three years without bearing fruit and the number 3 in Hebrew numerology indicates a complete number.
Three is the first number to which the meaning “all” was given. It is the number of the whole as it contains the beginning, middle and end.
So, the 3 years indicates that the chance given to the tree to bear fruit has already been completed and in essence has to be uprooted.
Remember that in John 15:1-2, Jesus calls the Father the Vinedresser” “My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit”.
So, It is the will of God that no one will perish but have eternal life. Despite the completion, yet another year was given to the tree to bear fruit, which indicates God’s grace and love for his people.
He still gives chances upon chances for us to come back to Him. This expresses the significance of the Lenten season as a season of grace and God’s mercy for sinners. The Lenten season is a season God gives us another chance to return to Him.
God’s Readiness to Save Us.
The first reading highlights to us a very important event in the life of the Israelites in the land of Egypt. After the death of Joseph and the Pharoah that knew Joseph, another Pharoah that does not know Joseph came to the throne and reduced all the Israelites to instruments of slavery.
They were maltreated and subjected to suffering and chastisement. In the midst of this, the people cried and asked God to come and save them from the hands of the Egyptians.
So, what we would hear in the first reading is God’s encounter with Moses when Moses was tending the flock of His Father in law Jethro, who is the priest of Midian.
God appeared to Moses in flames of fire or burning bush without the bush burning. So, in this encounter God assures Moses that He has witnessed the affliction of His people and has now come to rescue and save them.
In this encounter, God sends Moses to be the instrument He will use to save the people from Slavery. In this encounter, God reveals three things and they are:
1. He is not silent to the prayers of the people. Whatever prayer they have said or cried to Him, He heard all and now comes to rescue.
In this same way, when we pray to God amid affliction, we have to fully know that He is not silent. One day, He will also remember us. The voice of prayer is never silent.
2. It shows that what truly made God come to the rescue is the cry of the people to Him. And His response also indicates His readiness to save the people.
Therefore, the prayer, fasting, charity, faith, the sacrifices etc that we do in this Lenten season, are not forsaken by God. And if they are not forsaken by God, we should not immediately give up on Him.
3. Finally, to save the people, God chooses Moses. Therefore, the fruit that Moses came to bear is to be a salvific tool for the people of Israelites.
Therefore, this has a direct relationship with the gospel. God brings us into this world to be an instrument of peace, salvation, joy, holiness, touching lives, hope for the poor, end to violence, to speak in the face of evil etc.
As God chooses Moses, He chooses us one by one for a particular mission. God uses us as instruments to achieve a particular aim. But sometimes we have forgotten to make use of those gifts.
We have forsaken our mission and now bear fruits that are not in line with our calling. In His patience, He is still waiting for us to bear the fruits expected of us.
Therefore, let us be the peacemaker, be the end to killings, be the end to violence, speak against injustice, convert souls that are going astray etc.
Therefore, your family may be praying for a particular intention and you are the one God has selected to make it happen.
Instead, you have been wasting your time doing nothing. For something great and salvific to happen, there must be an instrument that will make it happen. Just as Moses was in his time. This time it could be You.
Luke gives us a pair of stories that call us to repentance. These stories make us meditate deeply on how God detests sinful living and the destructive power of sin.
In today’s gospel, Luke tells us how some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to the people that it is erroneous to think that what happened to them is due to the sins they committed. This is because the jews attribute problems to sin and then progress and success to righteousness.
But Jesus spoke against this erroneous view. He warns them that if the people of His time do not repent, they will all perish like the victims.
In the same way, He also referred to the eighteen people who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them, Jesus warned that those people did not suffer such fate due to their sins but if the people of His time refuse to repent, something more than that can happen to them.
1. In essence, Jesus is using these events to warn us about living in sin. He emphatically indicates that sin also brings punishment.
We may be enjoying it now but the fruits are very destructive. Therefore, the consequence of our sins could be more deadly than we ever think. Jesus asks us that the only way we can survive this is to repent.
We cannot solve problems by killing people. We cannot solve problems by using our bodies to make money.
Every form of sin that we embark on to achieve something may also bring us a lot of regrets. The only way is to bear fruits of Goodness. We have to avoid evil and return to our father.
2. Secondly, the story of the Galileans and the victims of the tower of Siloam warns us of the coming judgment and the reality of the uncertainties of life.
It means that anything can happen at any moment. It means that everything that happens to us in life is not because of the sins we have committed but that anything will always happen at any moment and to anybody.
Therefore we have to return and like the Israelites in the first reading cry out to God for the forgiveness of sins. No one knows what may happen in the next minute.
3. The news is indeed terrible. What happened is that the Galileans came to the temple to make their sacrifices, and Pilate’s soldiers slaughtered them in that holy place. He profaned the altar with human blood.
The gospel of Luke is our only source of information about these tragedies. The mention of Pilate, mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices appears to refer to a massacre of a group of Galilean pilgrims in Jerusalem.
The narrative does not reveal why Pilate slaughtered these people, but the deed nevertheless corresponds with what other historical writings tell about Pilate’s penchant for brutality.
A scholar explained that this was one of the reasons Jesus was brought before Pilate. They know he must condemn Jesus to death. Jesus also refers to the collapse of “the tower of Siloam.” a structure that collapsed without warning and crushed eighteen hapless Jerusalemites.
Jesus seizes on these two calamities to invite His followers to repentance. Both kinds of events lead the rest of us to realize how precarious our existence is.
Jesus implies that the victims did nothing wrong, nothing that caused their demise. Therefore, life is full of uncertainties.
4. One should not take whatever happens to him as a punishment from God. Therefore, we must not equate tragedy with divine punishment. Some tragedies just come. Not every tragedy is a result of sin. This still calls for daily preparation. No one knows what may happen in the next second.
Unless you repent you will all Perish.
When Jesus says, twice, “Unless you repent, you will all perish” as the others did, He refers to death in an eschatological sense, destruction of one’s soul (Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33).
Now, what does “perish” mean? The word simply means to suffer in the sense that we will suffer physically.
But that would not fit here since Jesus implies that if we repent, we will not perish. Then there is a clear indication that both the righteous also experience suffering in this world.
So, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” implies that “If you do repent, you won’t perish.
But still, many people suffer. So, perish is something more than simply dying a physical death or going through earthly suffering. To perish simply indicates eternal damnation for the sinner.
Luke gives us illustrations of “perishing” in the face of judgment. In Luke 10:13–15, Jesus says “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?
In Luke 16:29–31 “After his death, the unrepentant rich man is in torment. He asks Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, so they don’t perish in this place of torment”.
Therefore, to perish here means eternal damnation. So, Jesus is calling us to repent to avoid damnation at the end. God is ready to save and forgive us if we are willing to respond willingly.
From time immemorial God has called people to Himself. So, we can choose to respond and be saved or refuse to respond and be damned. The choice is ours.
The Barren Tree.
Here, Jesus continues to emphasize the danger of living in sin. He harped on the inability to produce good fruits and the reality of God’s love, who also gives the tree time, not just giving it time but adding more manure to ensure its growth.
After creation, one of the injunctions God gave man is to be fruitful (genesis 1:27-28) which entails righteous living and good use of what God has given to us.
These verses indicate the importance of not just avoiding sin but the need to do good. When a tree bears fruit, it does not eat its fruit; the fruit is eaten by others.
This passage expresses the need to help others around us, the need to show love to the needy and those around you and the need to be good.
It also expresses the need to make good use of whatever is handed to your care. Make out something from what is given to you.
So, how do you use your gifts in the service of others? How do you care for the flock handed to you? How do you take care of those you are in charge of? God expects you to bring something good out of whatever He has handed to you.
2. This parable also expresses how unproductiveness can invite the anger of God. It emphasizes also the constant availability of the grace of God to produce good fruits and the reality of the love of God.
God loves us so much that His love can lead us to repentance. When you harden your heart towards God, he gives you time to repent, he will bring people to you, make you hear His word constantly and even cause many events to happen to you only to make you fruitful and repent.
The obstinacy to these gracious acts cannot but lead one to be cut off into eternal damnation. God is full of mercy and compassion.
He is patient and loving, But God is also a God of judgment, and Christ is warning here that a time of final judgment will still come, especially a life that has had opportunities to repent.
The fig tree parable emphasises that repentance is necessary, and it is possible with God’s help.
He is patient and grants us time to change and bear fruit. Yet at the same time, none of us knows how much time we have left.
So it is better to redress our steps and come back to God. God has given you another year, another moment to come back to Him. This is the Lenten season. What are we waiting for?
1. There is one thing that God truly expects from us. God expects us to bear fruits that will last forever. We have to bear good fruits wherever we are.
Like the owner of the fig tree was worried that the fig tree is yet to bear fruit, is a direct revelation of how God is so worried that we are yet to bear fruits that He expects from us.
In the first reading, God chooses Moses for a very important and great mission. Therefore, indicating that whenever God wants to do something tangible for His people, He uses a human instrument to bring it to effect.
In essence, God may have chosen us to end a family conflict. God may have chosen us to wipe the tears of somebody. He may also have chosen us to bring joy to someone suffering.
God may also have chosen us to speak against injustice, killings, discriminations, intimidations, immorality, wickedness etc, But because of fear, we remain where we are. The fig tree parable reveals how God is so much interested in the fruits that we bear. Therefore, let us respond positively to Him than neglecting Him.
2. The fig tree parable reveals the love, kindness and mercy of God. He is God that gives second chances. He is constantly waiting for our return.
Like the fig tree parable, there are times we may have incurred His wrath but instead of Cutting us down, He gives us another chance to repent. The second chance that He gives does not mean that He is weak but it shows His abundant love for us which we always neglect.
Therefore, let us not think that the privilege to live or the privilege that we have is our right. Everything is simply due to the mercy and grace of God.
3. Therefore, God is ready to save us, if we are willing to be saved. God is ready to save our lives from sin if we are ready to come out of sin.
God is ready to save us from the temptation of immoral living if we are willing to come out of them.
I have always told people that the reason God punished Adam and Eve is not necessarily because they ate fruits that He commanded them not to eat.
God cannot be all that strict to punish them only because they ate the forbidden fruit. David did worse than that. Saul, who is St Paul today, did worse than that. Even Peter that denied Jesus did worse than that.
The difference between them and Adam is that these saints came back and returned to God but Adams was busy giving excuses. He was reluctant to seek the mercy of God.
Due to that, He lost His grace.
In the same way, the easiest way to be damned is the refusal to respond positively to God’s call to repentance. It is when we decided never to ask God for forgiveness. To do this is already a decision to be damned.
4. Today, many people find it hard to go for the sacrament of reconciliation. We prefer to seek sin and pursue pleasure rather than to seek the mercy of God and His goodness.
So, many Christians today have refused to confess and plead God for forgiveness for many sins that we have committed all these years. Hence we prefer to live in sin rather than embracing God.
That thing that is preventing you from reconciling with God, can prevent you from enjoying eternal life at the end.
5. One special thing about the parable is the owner’s readiness to give the fig tree another chance to bear fruit. Who knows whether this is the stage that we are now.
Who knows if the stage we are now is that waiting moment to bear fruit. That good fruit that we shall bear is what will lead us to eternity. Who knows if our time is near.
In the gospel, the stories of the victims of the Siloam towers and Galileans that were massacred showed the true uncertainties of life.
The uncertainties of life may take us unprepared. Who knows if we are in the waiting moment and we are deceived into thinking that we still have many years to live. Therefore, the fig tree story and the victims of those eventualities is a call for us to repent.
Just as the tower’s victims did not enjoy the luxury of choosing the time of their demise, this is the way we may not have the chance to.
While wasting our time, we will suddenly find that we have delayed too long and lost ourselves.
Therefore, God is ready to save us. We all have sinned.
6. Like the story at the beginning of this homily, God has consistently shown us that He is ready to forgive. God is ready to forgive. God is ready to save us from damnation. But like Emeka, we have allowed the devil to constantly remind us of our sins.
Hence, he has kept us in bondage and makes us believe that God will never forgive us again. But until we make that decision to return to Him, we would eventually know that he has been waiting for us all this while.
7. Finally, the person that we don’t have to overlook is that gardener that interceded for the fig tree. It was through His intercession that the owner of the orchard was able to give the fig tree one more time.
Therefore, like this gardener let us also be ready to intercede and pray for brothers and sisters who have gone astray.
Therefore, Let us be the instrument to help them grow in love and holiness. Let us not be happy to see others fall or fail, rather let us be the lifting hand.
Let us be that human intercessor that will show others the true way. Therefore, if you know anyone who is going astray, who is suffering, who is going the wrong way, be the hand to bring them back, Also never forget to pray for them, Be that gardener in this gospel.
May God give us the strength to abide by his word and respond to His grace around us. God has given us another second chance to repent, may He give you the strength not to misuse this opportunity again in your life. Amen