Homily: 3rd Sunday in Lent

Sunday 24 March 2019

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli

It was just about this time that some people arrived and told Jesus about the 50 Muslim worshipers whose blood was spilt in Christchurch. At this Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose these people who suffered like that were greater sinners than any others? They were not, I tell you. But unless you repent you will all perish as they did.

A sobering thought, isn’t it? The words of Jesus from the gospel are not meant to be words of a bygone time – they apply just as much for us today.

None of us can really make much sense of our world in which ideological terrorism or political oppression or economic tyranny can so completely degrade the value of a human life. None of us have proper answers to such deeply troubling actions, even as some offer quick and cheap answers. We all feel quite powerless in the face of issues that are beyond our control. Why does God allow these things to happen? Why does evil, in all its forms, seem to reign so freely in human affairs?

Yet, the words of Jesus in today’s gospel are a jolt back to a deeper reality. Human evil is our doing, not God’s doing. And if evil is our doing, then it is also ours to account for. Owning up to this unpleasant reality is the only way to accept healing for these self-inflicted wounds.

Perhaps you will want to argue, as I find myself doing, that such evils in human affairs are not my doing: I am not personally responsible for them. Yet, the notion of original sin, where the sin of one has been visited on all of us, is precisely about how in every human life, in my human life, the good and evil of all human life is embodied.

This is the point of today’s gospel: the goodness or evilness of human affairs is not measurable in how others live; it’s about how I live. “Unless I repent…” Christ saved us from our shared and collective sin because he took on the sin of each individual human person. One life offered, for the sake of all lives. And what Christ did with his life, we are called to do with ours.

We can see this played out in every marriage. When a couple on their wedding day offering themselves to each other in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, they are promising to say ‘no’ to a way of human living where the life of the other is counted as expendable. Every marriage is supposed to be a witness to world peace, because marriage is meant to show that it is possible for two people to be reconciled in forgiveness and love. Jesus called himself the bridegroom, and the Church his Bride, in a marriage made on Calvary. Forgiveness is possible, and evil can be overcome, when faithfulness is pursued.

In Jesus’ parable, the owner of the fig tree gave it one more year to bear fruit before it would be cut down. If, as in the parable, the tending of one tree could make such a difference, then so can the living of one human life. What sort of fruit will our lives bear in the coming year?
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