Reflection/Homily: Third (3rd) Sunday of Lent Year C (March 3 2013)
Theme: The Word of God: A Divine Catalyst
Those days in the secondary school, we were taught that a catalyst is a chemical substance that facilitates a chemical reaction and is itself unchanged during the chemical reaction. In other words, we can say that a catalyst is an unchanging substance that is capable of initiating a change in another substance. Under the field of science, we can find catalysts like Manganese dioxide which is used to decompose Hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water, we can also find sulfuric acid which is used to dehydrate Ethanol to Ethylene, etc.
A more familiar example of a catalyst is heat. Heat is used to speed up a number of chemical reactions but at the end, it remains unchanged. Importing this idea into our context, we can also consider a spoken word as a catalyst in the sense that it goes from the speaker into the hearer to transform the hearer but in itself it remains just a spoken word. In this sense, we can then analogically talk about the Word of God as a Divine Catalyst. This Word comes to us as a gift from God to instruct and transform us into what God wants us to be, but this Word remains unchanged.
In the first reading (Exodus 3:1-8.13-15), we see the function of this Divine catalyst in the life of Moses. He was pasturing his father-in-law’s sheep when the Word of God came to him in an encounter with God in the burning bush. This Word transformed him into a messenger of God and a liberator of the Israelites. He was instructed by God to carry this unchanging Word of God and change the circumstances of the people of Israel in Egypt from being slaves to the chosen people of God. To prove the unchanging nature of God and His Word, God identified Himself as “I AM”.
Within this period of lent, the Lord is constantly making us more conscious of His Word as the Divine catalyst necessary to facilitate our transformation into the ideal children of God. Through the Church, He feeds us with the Word and Sacraments accompanied with prayer to make us bear fruits. The result of this is what we find in the gospel reading (Luke 13:1-9). Despite the efforts put into the fig tree, it failed to produce fruits and the master wanted to cut it down. But the gardener intervened requesting for one more year to dig round it and manure it.
As Christians, this period of lent is perhaps, the one more year, God is giving us as a second chance to allow His Word bear fruit in our lives. It is a unique opportunity to recognize God’s love for us and try to reciprocate that love by living a righteous life. God does not delight in the death of sinners but wants them to repent and be transformed by His Word. This was the lesson Jesus wanted the people who came to him to learn. Those who undergo unfortunate circumstances are not the worst of sinners as those who are always fortunate are not the best of saints. Our safety is only as a result of God’s mercy and favour which invites us to repentance. Thus Jesus says, “unless you repent, you will all perish as they did”.
Beloved friends, the Word of God says “If today you hear his voice harden not your heart”. The voice of the Lord is the word being addressed to us now, calling us to abandon our evil ways and allow the Word of God to liberate and transform. It is not about being baptized or about going to Church or about receiving the sacrament but about allowing the Word of God we hear to influence us into doing the will of God.
That is why St. Paul reminds us in the second reading (1 Cor. 10:1-6.10-12) that salvation is not automatic. It is not enough to believe in Christ (the new Moses), or to be baptized (crossing the Red Sea), or to receive the Holy Spirit (protection of the cloud), or to partake in the Eucharist (the bread symbolized by the manna and the wine symbolized by the water from the rock). The Israelites all did these yet they perished in the desert. Therefore, we ought not to grumble when we hear the Word of God as they did but we have to accept it with joy and allow it to bear fruits in our lives. Therefore, as we progress in our Lenten observance, let us be resolved to put into practice all that the Word tells us for this unchanging Word of God can transform the ever changing circumstances of our daily lives into something pleasing to God and beneficial to us . God loves you.