What is God trying to cultivate in us this Lent?

By: Sharon Priester
Headline: What is God trying to cultivate in us this Lent so we bear fruit?

Third Sunday of Lent, March 7
Exodus 3:1-8a,13-15; Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,6-7,8,11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9

Two-and-a-half weeks ago we were marked with ashes in the sign of the cross and may have heard the words, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” This third week of Lent focuses on our need for repentance. Twice in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the people, “If you do not repent, you will perish.”

What exactly does repentance mean? The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes interior repentance, a conversion of the heart, like this: “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace.” (CCC, 1431)

In the first reading, Moses, a lowly shepherd, is tending his father-in-law’s sheep when he sees a burning bush. As he draws nearer to the bush, he hears a voice calling him, “Moses! Moses!” Moses replies “Here I am.” He listens and hears, “I am . . . the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” God goes on to say he knows how the Israelites have been suffering as slaves of the pharaoh and wants to rescue the people and bring them to the land of milk and honey. He has chosen Moses to be their leader, the one who listens and obeys God.

In the second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians of how the Israelites were taken to the promised land under the guidance of God. The Israelites did not want to follow God’s way and after a time were struck down in the desert. He goes on to warn the people of Corinth to “not desire evil things, as they did.” They should instead place their trust and faith in God.

In the first part of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is told about the Galileans being slaughtered by Pilate. He reassures the people that those who were the victims of the slaughter or who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them were not greater sinners than others, not singled out to be punished.

As the Gospel continues, Jesus teaches the people about God’s mercy through a parable, a story of the “fig tree planted in his orchard.” This tree, having been planted three years previously, was not producing any fruit. The gardener, wanting to save the tree, persuades the owner of the orchard to let him have another year to cultivate and fertilize the tree so that it could bear fruit.

We are like the fig tree that was not bearing fruit. Instead of being cut down, God is patiently waiting for us to be nourished and grow in our faith. It is during this season of Lent, through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, that we can be led to sincere repentance, a new way of thinking, a new way of being.

God is infinitely patient with us. We must “listen to him” and be attentive to the voice of God. He is always present, supportive, giving us the grace to live our lives in his way and bear good fruit. What things do you need to leave behind this Lent so as to bear good fruit?

Remember the words of Psalm 103 during the remaining days of Lent: “Merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. The Lord is kind and merciful.”

Sharon Priester is one of six regional directors of religious education working with the diocesan Office of Catechetics and serves the Bloomington and Lincoln vicariates of the Diocese of Peoria. She is a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington. Contact her at dspriest@msn.com.

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