Third Sunday of Lent
March 24, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Ex 3:1-8A, 13-15 / Ps 103 / 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 / Lk 13:1-9
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today I want to focus on one event in “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is the part where the band of heroes is forced to go underground and travel through the mines of Moria, a dark, foreboding, and evil place. They travel safely for a few days and are almost at the end, when they are discovered by the evil orcs who live there. A fight ensues and they must flee for their lives. This fight culminates when they have to cross the bridge of Khazad-dûm.
The whole band runs across the bridge. The last to cross is Gandalf, the wizard, who is an angelic-type hero in the story. They are pursued by the evil Balrog, who is a demon from hell. Gandalf stands on the bridge and says to the Balrog, “You shall not pass.” The Balrog starts to cross anyway, and Gandalf strikes the bridge and it breaks, and the Balrog falls into the abyss. Everyone relaxes, thinking they’ve made it across the bridge. Suddenly, the whip of the Balrog comes up, wraps around Gandalf’s ankle and pulls him down.
I was reminded of this scene as I was reading the second reading from St. Paul. You will remember that the second reading ends with the line, “Therefore whoever thinks he is standing secure, should take care not to fall.” I think this a good summary of the Christian life. It seems like just when I think things are going great, that I’m a pretty good person, something happens and I realize “I didn’t do too good there.” I’m quite sure that has happened to everyone, because we are all sinners, and we live in an imperfect world. This life is a struggle as we go through it with the goal of spending eternity with God.
We all know that we just need to love God and love our neighbor. That is so easy to say and so hard to do. Just when we think we are doing a good job, something knocks us off the bridge. We want to do good, but often we fail to do that good or even worse, do the bad thing. It can seem too much. It can seem like, “How in the world can we live up to that expectation?” It’s not in our power to do it.
It seems like that, because it isn’t within our own power to save ourselves. We cannot do it alone, but with God’s help we can overcome. We always need to remember that when we fall off the bridge, God is a merciful God. He is always there to lift us back up, dust us off, and say “Okay, go along and do better.”
There is nothing we can do that is so terrible that God will not take us back, because when Jesus was nailed to the cross, He paid for everything – in the past and in the future. We only need to accept the great love of God and to open our hearts and accept His presence.
God does not leave us by ourselves. He does not leave us on our own. He has given us the tools that we need to persevere. He has given us the Scriptures which we hear every Sunday and draw lessons from. We use them as a guide for how we need to live our lives, a window into the mind of God. He gives us beautiful music and worship to help us focus our attention, not on the troubles of this world, but on the great world to come. He gives us the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation; so when we fall off the bridge, we can make a new start. He gives us each other. We are not in this alone; we are the body of Christ. We are not called to be Christians by ourselves. He gives us this wonderful Church to walk with us, to guide us and to lift us up when we fall.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree; a fig tree that wasn’t living up to expectations. We are the fig tree, but God is the gardener. God gives us the Holy Spirit, a great fire to live within us. It will not consume us but purge us of impurities. If we accept this care and cooperate with it, then we can bear great fruit.