BEING CALLED AND CHALLENGED

March 20, 2022 – Third Sunday of Lent

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032022-YearC.cfm)

The first reading from the Book of Exodus tells us a wonderful story of the call of Moses. His call from God captures the invitation for each of us as we are now on the third Sunday of Lent. So, let us explore together our readings today and see how God invites and calls us.

The first reading is a story of conversion of Moses. We have heard that it began through the “burning bush” which led to the encounter of Moses with God. But what really happened there? Let us take it step by step.

When Moses noticed the flaming bush but was not consumed by fire, Moses became curious. His curiosity led him to come near to the burning bush. As he came near, it was at that moment too that Moses’ name was called. And when he responded, Moses was made aware of the holy presence of God as he was standing on a holy ground. Moses has to remove his sandals and to present himself in bare foot before God. When Moses did remove his sandals, it led him to a personal conversation with God because he became more grounded. By removing his sandals, Moses felt and became more connected with God.  It was an intimacy shared by Moses and the Lord. Moreover, this encounter brought Moses to a mission. God sent Moses, and that is to bring the Lord to his fellow Israelites.

This encounter of Moses with God allowed Moses to know God and be more aware of God. God’s name is “I am who am” or basically means, “I am with you always, all the time.” This was how Moses realized that God is relational. This means that God does not remain remote or alien to human suffering. In fact, the Book of Exodus described God’s words in this way, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering.” This led Moses closer to God.

This is indeed a conversion story because from the kind of life that Moses was so comfortable with, God disturbed him. That disturbance was God’s way of calling Moses to go beyond from his comforts and even from his fear of being killed by the Egyptians. Remember, Moses fled Egypt because he killed an Egyptian soldier who had beaten a Hebrew slave. The burning bush then, became the opportunity for Moses to encounter and know God, and being called and challenged by God as well.

Moreover, the call of conversion is what St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians.  The history of unfaithfulness, of the grave sin committed by the people in the past must be a learning experience. That cannot be forgotten. St. Paul calls us, definitely, not to grow complacent and to just be secured with what we have in this world. He even expressed this in these words, “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” 

The same call of conversion that would bring us closer to the Lord is what the parable in today’s Gospel revealed. In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus tells us that the Father is a God of many chances. God gives us many chances to change our ways and to come nearer to him so that we may find fullness of life. This is described to us as Jesus expressed in the parable how the owner visited the fig tree. Yet, in the person of the gardener, Jesus tells us that indeed, God gives us another chance when we fail and commit mistakes, when we grow complacent and refuse to be life-giving. The gardener expressed hope to the owner as he asked him to give the fig tree another year. The gardener promised to cultivate it so that it may bear fruit. The gardener saw hope for transformation and hope of being fruitful in that tree.

Indeed, God always sees hope in each of us too. This was how God saw hope in Moses who left Egypt to hide and to make him as God’s messenger. God also saw hope among his people who were made slaves in a foreign land to give them the fullness of life.

Out of these things, there are three invitations that I want you to remember on this Third Sunday of Lent.

First, to be more conscious of our own “burning bush.” This “burning bush” could be an experience were we also became curious about God but led us to a personal encounter with God.

Second, let us remove our sandals, as what Moses did, and to remove anything that is not helpful and toxic and those that prevents our growth.  This means that we are challenged to remove and to let go those unnecessary things, attitudes, behaviors, opinions, beliefs and lifestyle that prevent us from becoming a life-giving person.

Third, to go beyond. This is where we find the message of hope and the call of conversion. We are not limited by our failures and mistakes in life, not even by our sickness, struggles and difficulties that we have at this moment. God sees hope in us and it is God’s desire that we are able to enjoy life and celebrate life in its fullness. Thus, go beyond from our protected shells of pretensions and complacency by allowing ourselves to grow in our relationships. And also, go beyond  from our fears and sins by seeking peace and reconciliation, go beyond from our insecurities, anger, hatred, disappointment and trauma by making ourselves confident with God’s gift of healing and of his faithfulness to us. Hinaut pa.

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