3rd Sunday of Lent

When we think about some of the famous stories from the Bible, I think we often get our images from our childhood picture bibles and movies we've seen. There's nothing wrong with that, but it is always good to get back to the story itself and look at it with fresh eyes.

What we heard in the first reading today, the story of Moses and the burning bush, has been portrayed in many different ways. You might have in your head scenes from the cartoon The Prince of Egypt or maybe Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments - but now we're back to the source, the original.

Moses, an Israelite who grew up in the palace of the Pharaoh has fled Egypt after killing an Egyptian taskmaster. Now he's living with his father-in-law's family and working as a shepherd. While he is working, he sees the burning bush - on fire, yet not consumed - and his curiosity drives him to investigate.

God calls to Moses and gives Moses his mission - to go to Egypt and free his fellow Israelites.

But there is something even more important that God gives to Moses at this meeting: God tells Moses His name. God says, "I am who am ... This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”

I AM.

The whole mystery of God is wrapped up in those words. God is - He is the One who always exists, who always is. He is not only the greatest among the gods of the world, He is the only God who truly exists. God is the one who holds the whole universe in existence - without Him, nothing is. God is in the past, and in the future. He created the world and will be there at its ending.

This name is so sacred that the people of Israel didn't use it. It was only spoken aloud by priests in the Temple. It wasn't even written down in the Old Testament: every time you the word LORD in capital letters in the Bible, that is where the Jewish people would substitute "Lord" for the true name of God. We pronounce it as "Yahweh," but that is really only a guess - and Catholics don't use that name in our music or liturgy out of respect for the Lord.

This is God - and He comes to meet humanity. That is important, and it helps us to understand our Gospel.

What we hear from Jesus in the Gospel of Luke today is a warning. He refers to two events that his listeners would be familiar with: some Galileans being killed by Pontius Pilate while they were offering sacrifices in the Temple and a group of people who were killed when a tower collapsed on them.

There would be an assumption that these awful things happened to them because of their sinfulness, but Jesus says that's not necessarily the case. However, all of us should beware: if we don't repent, our sins can lead us to a worse sort of death - spiritual death.

Jesus illustrates this with his parable of the fig tree. The owner has let this tree grow for years, but is has not borne any fruit, so he decides to cut it down. His gardener asks him for one more year, so that he can try his best to make it bear fruit. If that doesn't work, he will cut it down.

We are all given a chance by the God of the universe. The One who made all of this desires for us to know Him - and that means repenting of the things that take us away from Him. It means allowing our lives to be changed so that everything is directed towards Him.

But our lives are limited. This is our chance. Let's not let them go to waste.

To live in communion with the God who holds us in existence, we must bear the fruit of conversion.