Homily Sunday, March 24, 2019 (major points borrowed from Saint Pope John Paul II March 22, 1992)
How well do I know myself? How well do people know me?
Can you imagine this happening to you or me?
In 1888, a man’s brother named Ludvig died in France from a heart attack. Thanks to poor reporting, at least one French newspaper believed that it was Alfred who had perished, and it proceeded to write a scathing obituary that branded him a “merchant of death” who had grown rich by developing new ways to “mutilate and kill.” The error was later corrected, but not before Alfred had the unpleasant experience of reading his own death notice. The incident may have brought on a crisis of conscience and led him to reevaluate his career. This is the one and the same Alfred Nobel – inventor of dynamite. In his last will he established the Nobel Peace prize for advancements that bring practical use and peace for humankind. Today we call it the Nobel Peace Prize first issued in 1901.
God reveals his name to mankind
- On this third Sunday of the Lenten season, in the passage from Exodus, God lets us know his name.
‘I AM sent me to you'” (cf. Ex 3:13-14). This word, “I am”, which is also expressed in the word Yahweh, says that God is the existent and transcendent One. Everyone receives existence from him. From this we are given to understand that Yahweh is none other than one, the only God.
- Revealing to people his own name, that is, his intimate existence, is a sign of God’s great kindness. However, this is only the beginning!
- Prophets, psalmists follow with their message of God.
- Then from the Lord Jesus’ revelation we explicitly learned that God, although one in essence, exists in three equal but distinct Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We learned that the choice of the people of Israel in the Old Testament was meant to prepare for the coming of the Messiah but that, with the coming of Jesus of Nazareth, true God and true man, all of mankind has been called to the dignity of the People of God. Most of all we learned (and this is the greatest thing God said about himself through Christ) that God is love, that is, in him being and loving are the same thing, that he possesses unlimited love, that he has not received the ability to love from anyone else, but that everyone receives it from him.
- How much love God has poured out upon the earth and into our hearts! He has done so through the Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, poured out at Pentecost upon the people gathered in the Upper Room and, since that day, upon all believers in the different forms in which grace has been given to souls.
All this takes place within us through continuous conversion. In fact, conversion means eliminating the obstacles between us and him, between us and his grace, and letting his life be instilled in us.
Being converted means taking on a new mentality by which we see as Jesus sees, we want what Jesus wants and we live as Jesus live. Living from him and like him is the goal of the Christian, to the point of being able to say with St. Paul: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
In the passage from the gospel of Luke, we see how Jesus takes his starting point from that day’s current events to teach the people and to preach conversion: the news involved the ferocious murder of a group of Galileans (what we do to others) and the sudden collapse of a tower which had killed 18 people (what we build).
Concerning the first episode, Jesus says: “Do you think that these Galileans were the greatest sinners in Galilee just because they suffered this?” (Lk:13:2). With these words he wants to eliminate the notion that misfortune is necessarily a punishment for sin.
Concerning the second episode Jesus warns: “But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform” (Lk:13:5). Here the topic is more clearly expressed: Jesus wants to make us reflect on the fact that a catastrophe has symbolic meaning too; it is a reminder to examine one’s own state of conscience. When it is a question of hardened sinners who meet a tragic fate, it is even more tragic than the events described because the ultimate destiny of each person is concerned with eternity – our Final End.
However, even though the warning is a harsh one, Jesus is patient, full of love and mercy. We see this in the parable of the fig tree that does not yield fruit. After three years the owner ordered it to be cut down. But the vinedresser asked for a reprieve. The vinedresser is Jesus who, in his great love, offers us still more time to mend our ways, to be converted and live as true Christians.
St. Paul, too, in today’s passage from the First letter to the Corinthians, urges us not to fool ourselves: it is not enough to be baptized and nourished at the same Eucharistic table if we do not live well and keep watch! (cf. 1 Cor 10:3-4).
Let us contemplate this mystery which inspires the Third Sunday of lent. God revealed his name to us. God has offered us his profound mystery: the mystery of divinity and then the mystery of communion, of the Trinity. Let us remain then in contemplation of this mystery of the Name of God in order better to understand the mystery of lent, conversion, but conversion through Christ’s sacrifice, through his paschal mystery. Praised be Jesus Christ!
Note: On Monday, 22 March, the Holy Father made a Pastoral Visit to Rome’s St. Leonard Murialdo Parish. During his visit he celebrated the Mass of the Third Sunday of Lent; after the Gospel he preached the homily based on the readings.
Peace be with you,