Sunday, March 3, is the Third Sunday of Lent (Year C).
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9
Today’s readings give hope for the future. Not an easy, happy hope — a serious hope. A hope that is founded in God’s actions, not ours.
The hope comes because we have a savior. We often hear Jesus called our savior. Maybe we take that for granted and haven’t thought about it.
A savior isn’t someone who stands above the world’s dark ways and demands that we crawl out to him. A savior is someone who brings light into our dark world and leads us out.
The Gospel begins by Jesus dispelling a common misconception of his time — and ours: the belief that when bad things happen to people it must mean that those people have been bad.
But then he takes the lesson one step forward. He tells a story of a fig tree that the master wanted to cut down. The gardener begs for him to spare the tree for a year, so that he can tend it and strengthen it. The master agrees.
The message: Not only is God willing to overlook our weaknesses, he takes the initiative to overcome our weaknesses. In other words, he isn’t just a merciful judge — he is a savior.
He doesn’t just demand that we better ourselves and then judge us kindly if we fail. He gives us what we need to better ourselves. He tends us and nurtures us.
This is what he has been doing from the beginning of salvation history.
In today’s first reading, the Israelites in Moses’ day are in a terrible situation. They are slaves to the Egyptians and have gotten so accustomed to their captivity that they seem to have lost the desire to strive for freedom.
The second reading compares Moses’ action for them to baptism — in other words, they are slaves to the Egyptians the way we are slaves to sin.
What does God do? He takes the initiative to save them.
Moses isn’t looking to be a hero. God grabs his attention with a burning bush and sets him on that path. The Israelites aren’t looking for a liberator. God sends them one anyway. The Israelites have given up the dream of a great nation. God starts one with them anyway.
All of this is what gives us serious hope for our day.
Our society has made a mess of things in many ways. Our time is marked by the sexual revolution, aggressive secularism and the violence of abortion. It is a false hope to think we can work ourselves out of the darkness we are in alone. That just isn’t possible. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that we are not the saviors of our world anyway. To reverse a recent political slogan: We are not the ones we have been waiting for.
Jesus Christ is our savior. And Jesus is merciful — and not just merciful; he’s anxious to take the first steps to save us.
Our hope lies with him. All we have to do is follow the light he brings to lead us out of the darkness.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.