We are in the third week of the Season of Lent. The readings today speak of God’s mercy and compassion. God is good, and His mercy is always there for us, but at the same time we need to understand, accept and cooperate with Him. Saint Augustine said it beautifully: “God created us without us, but He did not will to save us without you.” This means we need to cooperate with God and use the opportunities God has given us. That is why He invites us, particularly during Lent, to repent of our sins and to renew our lives by producing fruits—the fruits of love, compassion, forgiveness, and faithful service.
In the first reading, God calls Moses to a challenging task, to be the liberator of His Chosen People who had lived as slaves in Egypt. The reading reveals the call of Moses and the name of his God, Yahweh. God not only entrusts Moses with the enormous task of liberating His people, but also shares His name and explains it: “I am who AM.” YHWH means “I am Who am,” or “I am He Who is,” or “I am Who causes to be.” We might wonder why God revealed his name to Moses. It was to remind Moses of His presence. Moses was not alone in the enormous task of saving the people. God would guide him and walk with him. Further, God reminds Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, his ancestors. Through this self-revelation, God reminds Moses of the history of the past and the wondrous things God had done for His people.
In the second reading, Paul warns the people that they must avoid overconfidence and learn from the experience of the Israelites, so as not to repeat their mistakes. Referring to the episode involving the worship of the golden calf and the judgment imposed on the Israelites in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, Paul offers words of admonition and warning that God’s mercy has its limits. Paul reminded the people that in the book of Exodus, God saved His people miraculously, but time and again they disobeyed Him. The people were punished for their lack of faith; those who disobeyed God did not reach the Promised Land. Paul warns the people that they are potentially facing the same danger: “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care lest he fall.” Thus, Paul reminds his new converts to be faithful and not to assume that membership in the Christian community automatically saves them. That is, he reminds them not to take God’s goodness for granted, but to repent and turn away from their sins.
Jesus in the Gospel uses two tragedies to teach us about our need for repentance and the renewal of life—the killing of the Galileans by Pilate and the eighteen people who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell. The Jews interpreted these tragedies as God’s punishment for their sins. Jesus denies that neither the Galileans nor the eighteen people suffered because of their sins, but He calls His listeners to repent lest they suffer for theirs. In fact, Jesus presents both these incidents as timely reminders of the need for all to repent, saying, “… unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Lent is a great opportunity to turn to God, to acknowledge our faults and failings, and to receive mercy, forgiveness, and the promise of eternal life from Him. There is no better way to take these words of Jesus to heart than to go to sacramental confession, and there is no better time to go to confession than during Lent. Repentance begins with an admission of our sins and inadequacies. We cannot encounter Jesus in all His fullness unless we look at Him through the lens of repentance. Therefore, let us not take God’s goodness for granted as the people of Jesus’ time did, but take every God-given opportunity to repent and come back to the Lord. “Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1).