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Sunday, 3/24/2019, Third Sunday of Lent

Moses, God’s Shepherd for the Israelites

First Reading Commentary: Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15

God appeared to Moses on Mt. Horeb as fire flaming out of a bush. Fire is one of the signs of the Holy Spirit and it was the Father who spoke. Therefore, it was both the Father and the Spirit who revealed Themselves to Moses. In fact, every time that God appeared to Moses, it was in the persons of the Father and the Spirit. The Son did not reveal Himself because it was not His time. The Son would later reveal Himself as a man in the person of Jesus Christ.

This is important to remember because Moses was a forerunner to Christ who would relive the life of Moses as the One who would lead His people to the Promised Land. Moses would lead the Israelites to the Promised Land of Jerusalem on earth and it is Christ who leads all of us to the Promised Land of Jerusalem in Heaven.

One may argue that there are similarities between the life of Moses and the life of Christ but in fact, Christ did relive the life of Moses who was a shepherd tending the flock of his father-in-law across the desert. Christ is our Good Shepherd who tends the flock of His Father through this desert—our life on earth.

Consider the question: How can a bush be on fire without burning up? That is the same question that Moses had in mind. But remember, this was God and nothing is impossible with God. So, when Moses decided to approach the bush to investigate, God spoke.

What would you have done if you were Moses? Investigate or turn around and run like hell? Moses had no idea what he was looking at before God spoke but he was curious enough to find out because he was in awe and wonder. Sound familiar—awe and wonder—fear of the Lord—a gift of the Holy Spirit? God wants us to use that gift and Moses did. He did not realize it at the time but Moses was using the gift of awe and wonder of the Lord and that is why he was able to hear God speak.

God said, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Did you ever stop to think that maybe all of the earth is holy ground? When we look at the earth with all of its wonders, we are looking at God’s creation and through that creation, we are looking at Him and when we use God’s creation of earth, we are using Him. Maybe we should give our earth more respect—just saying.

God continued by telling Moses that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This frightened Moses. Would you be afraid if God appeared to you and began to speak? God does not want us to be afraid of Him but some of us are and that is because of our sins. But God does not allow our sins to get in the way of His plan so He just continued with what He had to say to Moses.

God told Moses that He knew of the suffering of His people at the hands of the Egyptians and said, “I have come down to rescue them…and lead them…into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

It was not God’s plan for His people to save themselves and God did not count on anyone else to save His people. We cannot save ourselves and God is the only one who can save us and in order to be saved, we must follow the lead of our Good Shepherd. God was telling Moses that He would save His people Himself through Moses who He would use as His shepherd to the Israelites.

When Moses asked what to say to the people when they asked who sent him, God said, “I am who am. This is what you shall tell the Israelites; I AM sent me to you…This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”

I AM or I am who am, is God’s name—Yahweh. Do not try to understand it or make since of it. We will never totally understand God or the mystery of the Trinity in this life. It is not for us to understand. It is for us to have faith. It is for us to accept God’s plan the same way that Moses did. When we do, we will find ourselves headed straight for the Promised Land.

Warning, Do Not Fall

Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12

Today, Paul gives a very stern warning not to make the same mistakes that the Israelites made in the desert. They committed the sin of worshipping idols with the golden calf. They committed sins of immorality. They put God to the test and they grumbled.

Because of these sins, the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years. By that time, all who had originally fled from Egypt had died. This was their punishment for disobeying God.

Paul is telling us that God made examples of the Israelites for the rest of us so that we might not desire the evil things that they did. As we look around the world today, it is obvious that we need to take this warning from Paul to heart.

Too many of us, even those who proclaim to be devout Christians, worship a false idol. It is called: money. In addition, immorality seems to be taking over and not just in a sexual way.

Too little respect is shown for anything of moral value. Ways of taking care of and saving our planet are either deemed as unnecessary or too expensive which means that the false idol is more important. Programs that would benefit the needy and the poor often fall into the same trap. And let’s not even mention programs and ideas that would make the same health care available to everyone regardless of income.

We don’t seem to care enough about each other to want to do take care of each other and we make all kinds of excuse for it. Money—the cost of such programs is more important than the programs and who they would benefit. You might argue that you are in total favor of programs that support the needy but are you willing to pay the taxes needed to support them? Say what you will but money rules the day.

Are we sorry for these mistakes? How can one be sorry without first admitting to having done wrong? The answer to this question is exactly why we should remember that God’s mercy and forgiveness are without limit, that is, if and only if we admit to our sins with remorse because the only unforgivable sin is the one that we are not sorry for and therefore do not admit to and confess.

Yet we complain. We always have something to complain about—just like the Israelites in the desert. But Paul gives us the opportunity to stop and think about what we are doing. He tells us that what happened to the Israelites is a warning to us and offers a word of wisdom.

Paul says, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” In other words, if we spend our lives focusing on the pleasures of this world, we will fall. If we fail to love God and love neighbor as Jesus commanded us to do, we will fall. And, if we continue to grumble without admitting to our sins with remorse for having committed them, we will fall.

Don’t Be Cut Down

Gospel Commentary: Luke 13:1-9

Today’s gospel is a perfect link between today’s first and second readings. Like Paul, Jesus warns us not to commit the same sins as those who have come before us or we will suffer the same fate that they did. In the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree, Jesus gives us several messages. One of them being: we are on sacred ground.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans who had been killed by Pilot. Jesus told the people that those Galileans and the people, who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them, were not greater sinners because of their fate. Jesus said, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” 

Jesus was giving the same warning that Paul gave in his first letter to the Corinthians. Jesus was also telling us to make ourselves ready for judgment before we face it by repenting while we can because we have no idea when our day or time will come. Jesus wants us to understand that repenting is necessary because we are all equal in the eyes of God which means that the same reward of heaven is available to everyone but so is the same punishment of hell.

Then Jesus told the people the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree. A man planted a fig tree and after three years, it did not bear fruit so he told his gardener to cut it down asking, “Why should it exhaust the soil?” But the gardener said, “Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.”

There are two powerful messages in what the gardener had to say. First, Jesus demonstrates the power of intercession and He is our primary intercessor with the Father as Moses was the intercessor for the Israelites.

Second, every tree in the garden has the same opportunity to grow and bear fruit. Which means; that each of us has the same opportunity of reaching the Kingdom of Heaven. Our gardener, Jesus, does not give up on cultivating us. Jesus cultivates the ground around us with the truth of His word and with the grace of His forgiveness. In so doing, Jesus makes our ground a holy and sacred ground.

If we confess our sins and repent, we grow and bear fruit. But if we do not repent, we do not bear fruit. On judgment day, the gardener's work is done and if we did not bear fruit; we are cut down which means that we do not enter the Promised Land.

If it is a gospel in which Jesus speaks, we hear the same message in one way or another. We hear it over and over and over again. “Follow Me,” “Be not afraid,” “In My Father’s house, I have prepared a place for you” are just three examples.

How many times does Jesus have to tell us the same thing for us to get the message? Well, how many times do we tell our children the same thing before they get the message? Unfortunately, some of them never get it. They have to learn the hard way. We are all God’s children. Need I say more?

Reading 1          Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15

Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian.
Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb, the mountain of God.
There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed.
So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.”

When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
God said, “Come no nearer!
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.
I am the God of your fathers,” he continued, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
But the LORD said, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering.
Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.

“This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”

Responsorial Psalm          Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

The LORD secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed.
He has made known his ways to Moses, and his deeds to the children of Israel.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

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.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Reading 2          1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.
Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.

These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer.
These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.

Gospel          Luke 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraph 767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church."174 Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun."175 As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176

The Holy Spirit came to Mary and the Apostles as tongues of fire.

Saint of the Day

St. Oscar Arnulfo Romero
(8/15/1917 - 3/24/1980)

God told Moses to tell the people, "I AM sent me to you...This is my name forever; thus am I to be remembered through all generations."

St. Paul warns us against committing the sins of the Israelites in the desert: idolatry, immorality, putting God to the test and grumbling.

This is the message behind Paul's warning in his first letter to the Corinthians. Choosing sin is telling God that we don't want Him.

Verse Before the Gospel Matthew 4:17

Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

When some people approached Jesus about what had happened to the Galileans, Jesus made the point that the same reward is available to everyone but so is the same suffering. We are all God's children and each of us is treated in the same manner.

We are the fig tree that Jesus, who is our gardener, cultivates so that we might bear fruit.

Saints of the Week

Annunciation of the Lord

St. Catherine of Genoa

(1447 - 9/15/1510)


(? - ?)

St. Catherine of Bologna

(9/8/1413 - 3/9/1463)
Patron Saint of:
Art, Artist

St. Ludovico of Casoria
(11/19/1538 – 3/23/1606)

St. Peter Regalado
(1390 – 3/30/1456)

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