Third Sunday of Lent
March 24, 2019
Listen here (click)
God uses nature, a lot, to tell us how to act, what God wants us to do, who God is, who we are. We only need to pay attention.
The fig tree, for example, year after year goes through the life cycles – spring and new life, growth during summer, fruit during fall, and rest in the winter. We, too, go through cycles. The joy and innocence of childhood, growth through the tumultuous teen and young adult years, fruitfulness in our adult years, wisdom in our elder years.
There are those times of rest and renewal during each part of our lives. Lent is one of those times of stopping, looking carefully at everything around us, and listening for God’s word to us.
Moses saw a bush, burning, but not consumed. He stopped in curiosity and then went to look closer. What he saw seemed unreal. Then he heard the words of his call – “Moses, Moses, go to my people in Egypt and lead them out of slavery into freedom, into a deep relationship with me, their God, whose name is I AM”.
Jesus uses nature, a fig tree, to bring us into a deeper relationship with God, ourselves, and all others. The parable says the owner stopped at the fig tree and looked for fruit. Seeing none he told the gardener to cut it down. The gardener, God, asks to give it more time. The gardener will water it, feed it, prune it, in the hopes it will produce fruit. If the tree is open, listens and responds to, God’s, the gardener’s, care it will produce fruit. We, also, if we listen and respond to God’s care will produce good fruit.
During Lent, we are being called to stop, unclutter our lives a bit, so we can listen to what God is saying to us, through nature, through others, through Scripture. We need to listen to what we are being called to now. After I retired, I fretted and worried about what I should be doing. Finally, on retreat at Assisi, God said, “Oh for heaven’s sake, just keep on doing what you are doing. If I want you to do something different, I’ll let you know.” That is the fruit of prayer, of stopping, looking, listening.
Sr. Joan Chittister says, “We do not go to prayer, like children at Christmas time, to coax God to give us presents. As Soren Kierkegaard writes, ‘The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.’ Prayer is not asking for things. It is a reaching out to find the God who is looking for us. As St. Teresa of Calcutta puts it, ‘Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God… listening to God’s voice in the depths of our hearts.’”
If we stop, look, listen closely, we will be changed. Moses was changed from one who, resisted the call, said he didn’t speak very well, and didn’t think he could be a leader, to the most prominent of Jewish prophets. He was a person who grew into a deep personal relationship with God and so did lead the people out of slavery to freedom in God.
Perhaps our call might be to have more prayer time, perhaps more quality time for our family, perhaps becoming more aware of those in our neighborhood who need extra help and support. Or perhaps our call might be fighting racism, and all the other isms, of our society, so we can help in stopping the violence and hatred against each other, like the killing of the Jews in Pennsylvania, the black church members in Charlotte, the school children in numerous schools, and the Muslims in New Zealand as they were at prayer.
So this week STOP. LOOK around you at nature, at people, at events in our world, country, church and nation. LISTEN to God’s call for you and discern what that call is. Then follow God’s call where ever it might lead you, knowing you will be changed.