Third Sunday of Lent • Year C

James D. McBurney, O.S.A.
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15
Ps 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12
Lk 13:1-9

Upon beginning a retreat several years ago, there was in the reception area of the retreat center a basket filled with rocks on which were painted various words. Some of the words were: joy, mercy, Jesus, love, forgiveness. All those making a retreat were invited to take a rock and let the word on it guide them in prayer as they made their retreat. So, I searched inside the basket and found a rock on which was written the word “awakening.” It seemed right for me to choose that one! Perhaps unconsciously, I was hoping for some “awakening” as I prepared to enter the retreat.

The focus on being awakened is connected to today’s readings. The readings offer various images: fire flaming from a bush, the invitation to Moses to remove his sandals because he is on holy ground, a falling tower at Siloam which leads Jesus to speak to those hearing him about repentance, and a barren fig tree. These images are quite ordinary on one level, yet when seen through the eyes of faith, they reveal deeper meaning. Perhaps this is at the heart of the Lenten journey, recognizing that we need to be “awakened” again and again to signs of God’s presence in and around us. We need to open our eyes and ears to the people and things around us that have something to say to us about who God is and how God desires to speak to us. Lent is a time of final preparation for catechumens soon to be baptized and a time for the baptized to be renewed and to embrace the call to ongoing conversion of heart. I would further suggest that the real conversion to which we are called in Lent and beyond is recognizing that the Christian journey is about movement…from a place of darkness to a place of light, from unforgiveness to forgiveness, from despair to hope, from fear to love and from a lack of freedom to freedom.

How often do we allow ourselves the opportunity to be awakened by the presence of the Lord? In the busyness of everyday life, how do we honor God’s presence in our midst? In the First Reading from Exodus, Moses chooses to draw near to the burning bush, to “check it out,” if you will. He is taken in by this “remarkable sight.” In the encounter of the presence of God in the burning bush, Moses is called to be instrumental in leading the Israelites out of captivity, for they have been suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. In going to the Israelites, Moses is told to tell them: “I AM sent me to you.” The journey of Lent invites us to remember God’s ongoing care for the Israelites in the past and how God continues to care for his people today. That care, which we acknowledge in the responsorial psalm today, is from the Lord, who is kind and merciful.

The invitation to ongoing conversion of heart that I mentioned earlier is highlighted in the Gospel. It is framed in a call to repentance. Repentance entails an openness to changing one’s mind and heart. The invitation to repentance is not to be viewed as judgment, but rather as an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord and become a better version of self.

As Moses drew near to the burning bush, we might ask ourselves: what invitation is being offered to us to draw near to the Lord? To what awakenings is God calling you? What is in your heart? As we continue our Lenten journey, may our prayer be that our hearts be once again “awakened” to God, to life, to repentance and to love. The more awakened we become, the more we come to recognize and bless God who is the source of all awakenings!