Gospel Reflection – Mar 24 + Operation Rice Bowl Week 3

Sunday, March 24

Third Sunday of Lent

Luke 13: 1 – 9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them-
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.'”

This week my thoughts have been entangled with the recent shooting at the mosques in New Zealand, the first reading from Exodus and the Gospel passage from Luke. I, perhaps like you, were sickened and disheartened about the senseless shooting that left 50 people dead in the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. I was so eager to blame someone or something. The Muslims had gathered; they had taken off their shoes and entered their holy space for the regular Friday prayer. It was there that they were slaughtered. In the opening verses of the gospel for this Sunday we have a very similar situation. The people are telling Jesus about Galileans who had gone to the Temple to offer sacrifice and it was there, in their holy space, that under Pilate’s orders they were slaughtered. We can imagine that they, like us, were outraged and probably felt powerless to do anything about it. They wanted to blame someone and had a specific person to blame – Pilate. New Zealand police now have a man in custody for the mosque shootings.

All the events brought me to the first reading. It tells a familiar story. Moses and the burning bush and God’s voice, speaking from it. Yet, that is not what drew me. It was what God said, “Moses, come no further, take off your shoes you are on holy ground.” The shoes intrigued me and the command to take them off was confusing.

It seems important that the shoes have to come off. I have wondered a lot about those shoes this week, especially after the shootings in New Zealand and the irony of Muslims taking off their shoes. Why did God want Moses to take his shoes off? Yes, he is on holy ground but why take off the shoes? I wondered might the shoes have a message for us as we gather in our place and stand on holy ground — St. Brigid of Kildare?

Moses had left Egypt and had established a new life. He is living a comfortable life. He was married, had children and became a shepherd. Today we see him tending the flock owned by his father-in-law. We might say he had settled down. However, that is not what God had in mind for Moses. God’s people were suffering, God heard their cry and was concerned about them. God needed Moses to do something.

God did not want Moses wearing the shoes of complacency or indifference. He did not want him wearing the shoes of settling down, settling in and settling for. God did not want Moses to wear the shoes of the comfortable life when people were suffering. Those shoes had to go!

So, I wondered do we wear shoes of complacency? Have we settled down, settled in and settled for the comfortable life? Have we become numb to the atrocities that are happening in our world? If we have, then those shoes have to go!!

We struggle to be holy and we pray every day to gain the strength and wisdom to stay in the struggle for freedom and peace. I think we are a people who truly and deeply long for God but maybe, just maybe, we need to look at the shoes we might be wearing, that keep us from being intrigued by a burning bush that seems to call to us.

Do we wear shoes of pride … shoes of religious intolerance… shoes of mistrust of anyone who believes or thinks differently than we do? … those shoes have got to go! Do we wear shoes of bigotry or prejudice? Those shoes have got to go! Do we wear shoes of unbridled hatred or exaggerated attitudes of superiority? Those shoes have got to go! Do we wear shoes of being indifferent to the needs of others? Shoes of selfishness or thoughtlessness? Those shoes have got to go! Do we wear shoes of gossip or complaining? Shoes of indifference or self-righteousness? Shoes of conscious or unconscious complacency? Shoes of closed-mindedness or blindness? Those shoes have got to go!

I think we could all name our own shoes. We can each name those things in ourselves that keep us from drawing closer to each other, to God and the suffering in our world. Those things that keep us from being intrigued by the call of God and approaching holy ground. Those practices and beliefs and attitudes that we use to keep God and others at a distance. Those things that keep us from realizing that we are on holy ground and that God is very near and longs to talk to us. God longs to send us on a mission because people around us are suffering from violence, poverty and injustice. First, we have to get rid of whatever shoes we are wearing that keep us from drawing close enough to hear the voice of God.

I don’t think God sent Moses off shoeless, but I think God sent him off wearing the shoes of a pilgrim-disciple. Was it easy for Moses? We know it was not. Moses listened to God and responded as the pilgrim-disciple. Will it be easy for us? Maybe, but I don’t think so!

Yet, we have to look at our own lives as individuals and as members of the world community to see where we may be part of the reason that gave impetus to such a horrendous act of violence that erupted in New Zealand. We need to look to see if there is anything preventing us from hearing God’s call and responding to God’s grace. Jesus tells a parable at the end of the Gospel. It is about grace and the Gardener who will nurture faithful discipleship in us … but we must take off the shoes we wear and put on the shoes of the pilgrim-disciple.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he [she] who sees takes off his [her] shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

–Sister Teresa Tuite, OP


Call to Family, Community, and Participation
Catholic social teaching inspires and guides how we are to live and work in the world. In this principle, Call to Family, Community and Participation, we remember that human beings are social by nature — we need each other. We, like the early disciples, are called to come together and grow as a community — whether that community is in our classroom, workplace or family.

Encounter Christyan
Christyan DhathCroos is from a farming village in Sri Lanka, but he spent half of his life in India. He and his family fled there during Sri Lanka’s civil war. He was only 14 years old when they left. When he returned to his homeland 16 years later, Christyan was 30, and the family farm was in shambles. He and his father found their fields covered in trees and filled with rocks. Now with a wife and family to provide for, Christyan needed help.

For a refugee, returning home after so many years can be challenging. That’s why CRS is helping Christyan and others like him rebuild their lives. That means helping to clear overgrown sections of farmland and ensuring those farms have access to water. Christyan is now growing rice, pumpkin and peanuts. Because of the assistance from CRS, Christyan can give his family things he never had.

Things like education. Because his family was always fleeing violence during the war, Christyan never completed school. “I want to make sure my three children are educated,” he says. “That’s my dream. No one in our family has finished their education, but I know my children will.”

Christyan’s dream is coming true. With the profits from the family’s farm, Christyan can send his 4-year-old son, Godwin, to a private Catholic preschool. It’s worth the money to Christyan to help Godwin achieve his dream of becoming a scientist. And there are no doubts from Godwin’s parents or the Sister who runs Godwin’s school that he will achieve his dream.

Christyan isn’t just teaching his family that they can achieve their dreams with the help of a good education — he’s also making sure they understand the importance of helping others. “When we had nothing, CRS came and helped us, and now we have what we need. We should help others too.”

To watch a video on Christyan’s story, click here: https://www.crsricebowl.org/stories-of-hope/week-3