Sunday 3 March
3rd Sunday Lent
Exodus 3.1-8, 13-15; Psalm 102
Every time we begin Mass (or formal prayer) we start: ‘In the name of the Father . . .’ perhaps we don’t take a lot of notice of that phrase, and yet the first reading today invites us to reflect on the significance of a name for God. Throughout the scriptures the idea of giving names or changing names occurs frequently, and it always carries significance with it for the person concerned. To call someone by name is to be in some sort of relationship with that person, to know someone’s name is to be privileged. And that is true of God. However, there is an important difference. The philosopher and theologian Hebert McCabe spoke of always having to dress God ‘in second hand clothes’ because God is not simply a very important and powerful one like us – God is Other and so when we apply language to God we are always speaking metaphorically. That is why Moses is given God’s name – but it is not a name like his own. However we translate the Hebrew, it retains its quality of Otherness. Similarly when we speak in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are naming God, but again in a way that is Other. By using a name, Moses – and we – do profess our relationship with God and acknowledge our privilege in doing so but also need to take seriously the Otherness of the One we name.
The gospel today is an uncomfortable one – how do we deal with apparently arbitrary disasters – is it the fault of those who are struck down? Jesus implies that if it were about fault – then every one should be struck down! The gospel parable tells us that it is only God’s patience that preserves the sinner (all of us?) in our failure to produce fruit. But the Lord will wait – he will give another chance – and more than that – he will positively act to help us produce fruit by giving time and resources to enable us to yield a crop, but – and it is a real but – there is a time when there will be no more opportunity. Perhaps that is a part of Lent – taking seriously this opportunity to be cultivated so that we may produce fruit.
4th Sunday Lent
Joshua 5.9, 10-12; Psalm 33
2 Corinthians 5.17-21
Luke 15. 1-3, 11-32
The second half of today’s reading from St Paul repeats part of the reading for Ash Wednesday. And that is a call to be ‘ambassadors for Christ’. It is part of our Lenten work to appeal to others to be reconciled – a useful insight for Lenten discipline, which can so easily be centered on our own personal devotional practices. The Christian calling is always directed outwards to others; that they may hear and be reconciled to Christ. But that is not a task we do alone: ‘It is all God’s work’ – it is Christ who is doing the reconciling through us – if we will.
The parable of the ‘prodigal’ son is one we are all so familiar with that it is easily not heard. Just a few weeks ago we heard the story of the sign at the marriage feast of Cana – Jesus producing the equivalent of over 900 bottles of wine – that is indeed a prodigal son! The father who holds the feast for the son in this parable is similarly prodigal – it is the very nature of God to be prodigal – totally extravagant. We lead up to the celebration of the Triduum shortly, in two weeks we have the Passion of the Lord; in order to ransom humankind, God gives up his only Son. When we think of Lent as a time of deprivation and ‘giving up’ – it is worth also seeing it as a time recording God’s extraordinary prodigality.Login for more...