Joined: 06 May 2005
Location: Greenville, Texas
|Posted: Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:11 pm Post subject: 3rd Sunday of Lent 3/7/2010
|3rd Sunday of Lent 2010
Homily by: Fr. Paul Weinberger
St. William the Confessor Catholic Parish
All ate the same spiritual food, all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them and the Rock was Christ yet, God was not pleased with most of them; for they were struck down in the desert These things happened as examples for us. so that we may not desire evil things as they did.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
In the First reading today we find Moses at the third part of his life. The first part is the 40 years that Moses spent in Egypt in the lap of luxury as the adopted son of Pharaoh. Then when Moses saw a Hebrew man being beaten by an Egyptian he killed the Egyptian and had to flee because Pharaoh would seek to kill him. He fled to a faraway place, which begins phase two of his life; 40 years in the land of Median. His father in law was there, whose name was Jethro. This is where Moses met his wife. So, he was 40 years in Egypt and 40 years in Median and we pick up the third part of his life just as he is tending the flocks of his father in law in Median and sees the Burning Bush. The last 40 years of Moses' life begins.
When Moses was going from Egypt to Median there is an interesting point; Moses was nearly killed by God. The Old Testament tells us that he met his wife and they had a child. Instead of circumcising the child on the 8th day as they were supposed to according to the law, Moses was not going to have his son circumcised because in Egypt they waited until the child was 14. His wife however saw to the circumcision so Moses was not struck down.
Moses went on during those 40 years in the desert getting Egypt out of his heart and those 40 years were preparing him for this last phase of his life, the mission that God was preparing him for, to lead his people out of the slavery of Egypt so that they might worship God in the desert.
In the Second Reading St. Paul is writing to the people at Corinth, which is located in the modern country of Turkey. Corinth was a very big city, very much like Nineveh. On the cover of the bulletin you see Jonah, centuries before Christ, preaching to the people of Nineveh and he is a most reluctant prophet. It took four days to go through Nineveh, and Jonah didn't like being there. Nineveh, like Corinth, was like our modern city of Las Vegas or any other large city in the West with all the same problems. After Jonah preached only one day the people of Nineveh converted. As it says under the picture on the front of the bulletin,
"When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out."
So, St. Paul has started a Church in Corinth and the people there have very similar problems to those at Nineveh and to those that afflict us today. In Corinth there was a temple on almost every corner. You see the remains of the architectural bones, if you will, of the temples in the area today. With every temple there are always three things connected with it. There was eating, drinking, and of course when eating and drinking are taken to excess there was of course, sexual immorality.
In the Old Testament when Moses went up the mountain to get the 10 Commandments and brought the stone tablets down the first time he heard music and saw dancing. The people were adoring a calf. They'd approached Aaron and said, "We don't know where Moses is or if he is alive, make for us a god so that we can worship this god." Aaron did as they asked and just as they had done in Egypt they began to worship the pagan god. Moses saw the people eating and drinking to excess and they were also engaged in sexual immorality. Eating and drinking opened the door to the "dancing".
Dancing here is a translation. I am not a Hebrew scholar and I am sure there are not any Hebrew scholars here tonight, but Hebrew scholars do contend that "dancing" is not the most felicitous of translations; sexual immorality is more appropriate.
In that Second Reading St. Paul tells us what Moses did when he came upon the scene where there was eating, drinking, and sexual immorality. St. Paul's says that God was not pleased with MOST of them, for they were struck down in the desert. That day when Moses came into camp, twenty-three thousand Hebrews were mowed down because of what they had been doing. St. Paul says "MOST" of them. St. Paul was trained by the best Rabbi perhaps that ever lived, Gamaliel, so St. Paul knows the Old Testament like the back of his hand. "MOST" of them were struck down in the desert. "These things happened as examples for us so that we might not desire evil things as they did," Another way to translate the word desire, is we might not crave the things they craved.
In Numbers, Chapter 11, the people demand meat from Moses; they miss Egypt because there they had meat. Every Temple in Egypt or Corinth or wherever in the Greco-Roman world they would have plenty meat because they sacrificed this meat to their pagan gods and goddesses. So, if you found a temple you could find a BBQ. I am from Texas so part of my DNA is love for BBQ. Who doesn't like BBQ? If you don't like it then you are probably not from here and we will pray for you.
When St. Paul is writing to the people of Corinth, their young people, who are now Christian and their parents and they have been baptized, are now coming to terms with the temples in Corinth. It is a big city with lots of temples and lots of BBQ. You could just smell the city of Corinth from miles away. When a young man turned 18 his parents would give him a robe of virility, a right of passage. He could then enter a temple without his parents being present.
We see something similar today; at the age of 18 in most states you are now an adult and you can start drinking. Notice how we separate the two; that temptation, coming of age and abusing alcohol. Those who produce liquor and beer target those 18 to 22 in their commercials. When many young men and women go to college they find eating, and drinking, and sexual immorality. In fact, today you would be hard pressed to find a form of dancing, which is not sexual immorality. The way people dance today is vulgar and that is the kindest way to describe it.
Getting back to Corinth, St. Paul is having to write these people and tell them that they cannot go to the temple. We can just hear them, "Wait a minute, all my neighbors are going to the temples and they are getting the BBQ; why can't we go and get our share?" It says that eating and drinking in the temples was designed to lower the resistance that the new Christians had, and lead them to sexual immorality.
Two women who would be featured today if it were not a Sunday are Perpetua and Felicity. If you know where the toe of the boot of Italy is, you follow the toe down to where Africa juts up, this is where the two women lived, in Carthage. In the year 203, they were martyred on this day. It was close to the time of Christ.
Both saints were young and were very beautiful women. They were both mothers, one being very wealthy and the other was a servant girl. Both had one fear as new Christians and had been arrested for being Christian. Their one fear was, that because they were women and because they were young mothers that they would not be martyred in the arena at Carthage. The people in the stadium were waiting anxiously for more Christians to be thrown to the lions or bears, who would tear them apart as a spectacle. Now, who would go into a stadium and watch as men and women, young and old, were being torn apart? They probably went there and started eating, drinking, and yes....engaging in sexual immorality. They became very desensitized to what was going on and they wanted more and more.
Saints Perpetuity and Felicity were brand new Christians and were martyred on this day. So, it is possible to see in these real examples how serious minded these two women are in serving God and in living their new faith.
In the Gospel today Jesus gives us this parable of the man, who has an orchard and in it is a fig tree that is not producing for three years. No fruit! So, he says to cut it down because it shouldn't be cluttering the ground. His helper suggests leaving it alone for another year and that he would dig around it and cultivate the soil and fertilize it; if it doesn't produce fruit then they would cut it down the next year. It has been given four years.
So, we go from 40 to 4; the chosen people are 40 years in the desert, to 4 years for that fig tree, to 40 days of Lent. Here we are at the Third Sunday of Lent and we are not even half way through the Lenten Season. Perhaps we have a goose egg for all the extra prayers, fasting, and helping others that we have done so far. Don't worry, but don't take it too seriously either and decide that you may as well not do anything. God has given us this season of Grace so that you and I can make spiritual progress.
Using the Second Reading, you and I all eat the same spiritual food and drink the same spiritual drink, which produces different results. The Rock is Christ; receiving Jesus in Holy Communion produces different effects in different people. If I am not free I cannot worship God. God told Moses, "Tell Pharaoh, let My people go that they may worship Me." You can only worship God if you are free. If you are craving something or someone you are not free and you can't worship God. Your heart is already given to another and we have to be very serious about what Jesus says. Saint Paul says that most of them were struck down in the desert. Jesus says in the Gospel that if you do not repent that you will all perish as they did.
If I told you that because I am a Catholic priest that when I die I am going straight to Heaven no matter how I am living one way or the other, you would have every reason to get up and walk out right now. That is not what the Church teaches and is not what Christ teaches. I don't have a guarantee and no one else does either including Pope Benedict XVI. We all have to worship God, which means we all have to make sure that we are free. Regular confession helps us to cinch that up. Prayer, fasting and works or mercy are the fast way if you want to become free quickly instead of taking the long way.
Can you imagine how reluctant Jonah was? He very much disliked the people of Nineveh so he was probably dragging his feet mumbling, "Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed, forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed." People probably had to ask him to repeat himself. Even with his lousy preaching in less than one day the city is converted and God repented. If Jonah was so half-hearted in his delivery and the people cooperated with God's grace, look at what just a little discipline can do for our lives.
This tapestry hanging on the front of the pulpit is 149 years old. The nun in Canada who made it did it in her free time. Back then when she was going to make dinner she had to put wood in a stove. To iron her clothes she had to make a fire as well to heat the iron. Back then everything took a lot more time. If you were going to the restroom you had to go outside. Of course in Canada, with all the snow, you probably had to make other arrangements. But, in her free time, Sister made this tapestry and it is St. Joseph, who was incredibly disciplined. It was discipline at the service of God. He worshipped God and was rewarded; his reward was the very Son of God in his own hands.
You and I should not envy St. Joseph because the same kind of discipline and self-control put at the service of others will be rewarded exactly the same way, but instead we actually receive Jesus in Holy Communion. When we call upon God, He actually hears our every prayer. So, lets use this time well; this could be the last year God gives us a last chance. We may have one more year to see if you and I are going to give God any fruit during this Lent. God desires to see fruit of Lent 2010, my personal conversion to the Lord. Can God see any difference between the day before Ash Wednesday and now? If not don't worry but begin today.
All ate the same spiritual food, all drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them and the Rock was Christ,yet, God was not pleased with most of them; for they were struck down in the desert These things happened as examples for us. so that we may not desire evil things as they did.
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit