Lent 3rd Sunday – LIFE-GIVING REPENTANCE
Lent 3rd Sunday
Ex. 3: 1-8a, 13-15 1Cor. 10: 1-6, 10-12 Lk. 13: 1-9
Repentance offers us a chance to come closer to God and to avoid our own self-destruction.
There was an old parish church in a dilapidated condition. Once the parish priest convened the parish council and discussed the problem. A decision was taken to build a new church in the place of the old church. However some of the members insisted that the old church should remain for the purpose of worship till the new church is built. So it was decided like this: ‘The new church should be built exactly in the place where the old church is. Till the new church is built, the old church should not be demolished. Moreover, the new altar should be built with the same stones of the old altar.’ This rather funny anecdote reveals to us how quite often we long for a new life without being ready to abandon our old ways of living. Repentance is the process of abandoning old ways of living and embracing new ways.
In all religious traditions, repentance is considered to be an important and essential element. It is important on two accounts: First, it is a necessary pre-requisite to come closer to God who is All-holy. Second, a person who does not repent seeks one’s own destruction. Let us delve a little deeply into these points against the background of readings today.
a). Coming Closer to God:
When Moses was mesmerized by the sight of the burning bush, he wanted to come a little closer to it and see what was happening. As he was trying to come closer, he heard God telling him, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” St. Gregory of Nyssa, a Father of the Church and also a mystic, has written a book, titled Life of Moses, which is considered to be a spiritual classic. He explains rather very succinctly the symbolic meaning of the sandaled feed and further writes how removal of sandals is a necessary requirement to know the truth: “Sandaled feet cannot ascend that height where the light of truth is seen, but the dead and earthly covering of skins, which was placed around our nature at the beginning when we were found naked because of disobedience to the divine will, must be removed from the feet of the soul. When we do this, the knowledge of the truth will result and manifest itself. The full knowledge of being comes about by purifying our opinion concerning non-being.”
Removal of sandal refers to coming out of one’s sinfulness – the sin of going against God’s will – in order to get closer to God. Though God accepts and understands human vulnerability and weakness, He does not condone and approve it. As long as we have got a human body, which has been created from the earth, a downward pull (i.e. inclination towards sin) is unavoidable. But a constant self-purification and a persevering effort is very much needed to come closer to God.
b). Avoiding one’s own destruction:
Jesus says, “unless you repent, you will all perish.” In the second reading, St. Paul explains how some of the Israelites who murmured and mumbled against Moses and God were destroyed in the desert by the destroyer. However God is not drastic and hasty in his approach. Rather He gives enough time and opportunity to human beings to rectify themselves. This is the message of the parable of the fig tree.
Reflecting deeper, we will understand that it is not God, who is All-Compassion who destroys us, rather it is the sinner who seeks one’s own destruction. Let us try to understand it with the help of an analogy. When a man drives a two-wheeler on road, there are two possibilities in front of him. One is to follow the rules and regulations properly and get his home safe. And the other is to drive recklessly he wants and gets into an accident. Similarly, this God-created world has got its own inherent laws – which Hinduism calls as dharma, Buddhism as dhamma, and Christianity as Truth (Jn. 8: 32). When a person aligns oneself with these laws, namely when one leads a righteous life, one’s life journey becomes pleasant and beautiful. In stead, using one’s freedom wrongly, when one goes against these cosmic principles, one gets into trouble and seeks one’s own destruction. On the one hand, it is true that it is God who punishes the wrong-doer since God is the originator, protector and regulator of these cosmic principles. But on the other, it is also true that a person seeks one’s own destruction by an improper use of one’s freedom.
By repentance what we are trying to do is to avoid our self-destructive way of life and embrace the life-style that nurtures us and others.