March 20, 2022 – Third Sunday of Lent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032022-YearC.cfm)
How do we make sense of a lot of things going on with our lives nowadays? Still adjusting with the life-threating Covid pandemic, we are also now amidst violence, terrorism, disasters, and killings along with the imminent threat of world war, oil price hike, dwindling geo & national politics. Is there and can we still hope in life?
As some people reported to Jesus about disasters and killings happened in Galileans in our gospel today, the central issue raised is also about Hope in life. “Can we still hope for God’s salvation? Is there still a hope and meaning in life?” Sometimes with a lot of miseries happening in our world today, like calamities, wars, poverty, disasters, exploitations, corruptions, and injustices, we do find life hopeless and meaningless.
This reminds me of a story about a beggar who had a rice bowl to beg. Every time he asks for some food or money from others, he would just stick out his rice bowl and beg for something. At times, he is too ashamed to beg; he cannot even look at them. But many at times, he becomes too rude to force others to give some scraps of food or some coins. Like other beggars, he dreams that someday he will become a millionaire. But he knows that such dream is impossible and just a wishful thinking because he got nothing but a mere dirty battered rice bowl he inherited from his family of beggars. Sometimes he would blame God for his life’s misery. He considers himself a hopeless and useless case.
One day, while begging, a merchant noticed his rice bowl and asked if he could have a look at it. The merchant then examined his rice bowl and concluded, “You must be stupid begging for some craps. You should not be asking for others help because you are one of the most fortunate persons in the city. This rice bowl of yours is a priceless antique made of pure GOLD. Just wash it clean and it will cost you a fortune. Why don’t you sell it to me? I could give you five million dollars for it.” But the beggar just laughed off what he heard from the merchant. He simply could not believe that his useless rice bowl is worth a fortune. He dismissed everything the merchant said and continued to beg for some food or money using his dirty battered but priceless golden antique rice bowl. What a waste, what a shame.
Sometimes, we are like that beggar. God has already given us a lot of His graces. He almost gave up everything for us – His life, His love, His salvation, His only Son. God has already endowed each and everyone of us enough of His blessings. He has given us not only a chance but a lot of chances to live life, and a golden rice bowl of faith in Him. But like that beggar, we rarely recognize God’s precious gifts to us. We rarely recognize our Faith. Sometimes we are not contented with our simple faith. Instead, we look for signs. We look for other substitutes. We beg for other scraps of beliefs. We dream for miracles but in vain. Then, we find life useless, and get hopeless with life.
Like in our gospel however, as the gardener assured his master that there is always a hope for a dry fig tree to bear fruits again – only if and when given a chance, Jesus also reassured us that there is always hope in life, if & when we change our ways. Jesus in our Gospel today reminds us that God has given each and everyone of us a chance to live life to its fullness. He calls us to see all life miseries are not signs of a vengeful God, but a constant wake up call to repent, to conversion and Christian Living. For Him, there is still hope for those who repent and believe in the Gospel.
We began the Lenten season last Ash Wednesday, with the words: “Repent and Believe in the Gospel.” It simply means that the season of Lent is the time for us not only to prepare ourselves for the Easter but also to examine and purify our rice bowl of faith, and then to recognize and accept the preciousness, fortune, and chance it brings. In other words, there is hope only if and when we repent, we change our ways and believe in the Gospel, in the good news, in the golden chance to live God has already given us. Otherwise, there is no hope and meaning at all.
As we struggle with our life-journey nowadays during these trying times, help us O Lord to acknowledge & responsibly accept your Gift of faith in us, for us to discover meaning, hope, strength, & direction through the challenges ahead.
So be it. Amen.