Homily for the third Sunday of Lent - Year C - Lk. 13:1-9
Father Daniel Meynen
"There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, «Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.»
"And he told this parable: «A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'» "
" «Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.» "
We often hear this question: why is there suffering, pain, and death? Why is there suffering of any kind? The answer is at once simple and complex. It is simple if we base our answer on the following sentence of Saint Paul's, who declares: "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin." (Rm. 5:12) This means that, through the sin of Adam, and as a consequence of this sin, man is submitted to temporal death: because of original sin, God imposed upon man the punishment of temporal death. But the answer is also complex, because as Jesus says: it is not because a man has sinned much that he will suffer much during his temporal life. This means that there is a relationship between sin and suffering, but that this relationship between the two is not proportional.
Indeed, if God is just, he is also merciful! And, if certain men or women, although being very faithful to God and to the Church, suffer much for a long time, it is due to mercy! Suffering and pain are a grace which God gives to those whom he loves more than all others! Who is the human person who suffered the most, although being guilty of no sin, if not Mary, the Mother of Jesus, present at the foot of the Cross, in her sympathy for her only Son as he died for all men? Truly, Mary is the most beautiful example of those who suffer without having any sin to present to the mercy of God. It is true that Jesus also suffered much, but he carried upon him all the sins of the world, and it is precisely for these very sins that he suffered and died on the Cross.
Mary voluntarily suffered with her Son. Even before the Annunciation, she had read the Holy Scriptures, and she knew that the Messiah who was to come would be a suffering Messiah, a man who would undergo much pain. She knew it and she said "yes" without hesitating. She was ready for all of it! And yet, she had not sinned: she had no sin in her! Mary accepts what she suffers whether or not it is just. Mary accepts suffering because she is full of mercy! She is the Mother of Mercy! She is the one toward whom we are invited to turn in order to return to God with all our heart! Mary suffered so much, not for her own sins, but for ours! What goodness! What love and what mercy for sinners! It is to her that we must appeal if we want to change our life: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
" «Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.» "
Here is another an example of mercy! The master would have had the fig tree that does not produce any fruit cut down immediately, but the vinedresser begs his master to wait a little longer, one year more. This is nothing other than prayer for the sake of obtaining mercy! Prayer is the great means of salvation! Without prayer, there is no hope of receiving the mercy of God which he has within himself. It is necessary to pray in order to be saved! Let us pray especially with Mary! Her own prayer is the best! It was through the prayer of Mary that Jesus accomplished his first miracle, in Cana of Galilee. Let us therefore have confidence in Mary, and she will help us to pray as it is necessary to pray. May this time of Lent benefit us by helping us to change our behavior through prayer to Mary!
We know that, in the course of this Eucharistic celebration, we are all going to pray together to the Father of Jesus, our Father, the Father of all mercy. With Mary, we are going to proclaim our faith in Jesus Eucharist! And above all, we are going to receive this divine sacrament, this remedy for all our miseries! Let us therefore pray with devotion, let us go toward Jesus with our hearts full of faith, hope, and love!