3rd Sunday of Lent (Luke 13:1-9)
How many of you know the meaning of the name “Alexander”? It means “Ruler of men.” Alexander became the most famous “rulers of men” in history. He was known by the whole world as “Alexander the Great.” Alexander the Great became a king when he was only twenty years old. Most people today haven’t even finished college when they are twenty! But at this young age, Alexander inherited a throne and all the responsibilities of a ruler. It only took Alexander eleven years to spread his empire all across the ancient world. One story tells us that when Alexander was still young, he burst into tears one day because there was no more of the world left to conquer. He had already conquered it all! But unfortunately as he was planning on taking another expedition with his army he suddenly died of malaria at the age thirty-two. Legend says that before his death he commanded his generals that as they carry his coffin on the streets they must place his both hands outstretched even outside of his coffin that people could see that when that great ruler, Alexander the great departs from this world he takes nothing with him. Even though he was the emperor of the world he goes away from this world empty handed.
In the book of Genesis it’s not unusual for people to live several hundred years. Adam lived for 930 years and Noah lived 950 years. The reason for their long life is that much of the Old Testament was written around 1200 to 1000 BC. In those days the calculation of the year was quiet different from what we have today. Another reason is that it was quite normal to write in that style. It was a narrating style of that time. According to bible all people will have an endless eternity with God in heaven and this life is only a preparation for that eternity. It is important that we live with an outlook of eternity, realizing that I am an ambassador here on earth. I am only a temporary resident and as a Christian my real homeland is heaven. The book Hebrews says (13:14) for here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come!
To day we have the parable of the fig tree. It is a challenging story. God’s mercy may allow us with second chances, but, sooner or later, there is the “last” chance. Many people frequently attempt to ignore that time is constantly passing by. Some people do not calculate their age and some others ignore birthdays! Such people are attempting to fool themselves. The frightening fact is that times flies and so does life with its opportunities -“Four things come not back – the spoken word, the sped arrow, time past and neglected opportunity”.
Now we are already half way through the Lenten journey and Jesus wants us to review our situations. Do not to fool yourselves into thinking that there is always tomorrow. This could be the last Lent in your lives, or only one more in a long series to come. Whatever! We do not have forever to accept God’s offer. The very word “Lent” is an old English word meaning “spring” – a season invariably associated with new growth after the long, cold months of winter. To achieve this growth, pruning is frequently required. Pruning is painful. But we are willing to take up that pain because as Christians we live with a sense of urgency about the return of Jesus. The book of Ecclesiastics 8: 6-8 says “it is a great affliction for man that he is ignorant of what to come … there is no man who is master of the breath of life so as to retain it; and none has mastery of the day of death”.
Lent is the part of that “one-more-year” during which we let God to prune ourselves by participating in different sacraments, personal prayer, penance, almsgiving, reading the sacred scripture and participating in the way of the cross. This will help you to repent. The word repent means turn around! It is time to realize that living life as we think best is a disaster. We need to turn around and let God set our values, direction, and lifestyle. So we need to repent — to change our hearts and lives, turn around, and go in His direction. No more playing around with religion. No more hypocrisy. No more religious talk without spiritual commitment and spiritual living. It’s put up or shut up time. It’s time to be fruitful. Surely God does not wish any of His children to be lost, but no one is saved unless he or she cooperates with God.
Brothers and sisters, for God the greatest heroes are not those who achieve prosperity, success, and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity.” We need to make the best use of the “second chance” God gives us. Our merciful Father always gives us a second chance. The prodigal son, returning to the father, was welcomed as a son, not treated as a slave. The repentant Peter was made the head of the Church. The persecutor Paul was made the apostle to the Gentiles. During Lent, we, too, are given another chance to repent and return to our Heavenly Father’s love. We are also expected to give others a second chance when they ask our forgiveness. God would like to use each one of us as the “gardener” in the parable to help Him cultivate our families and communities and enrich them with grace. Let us thank God for using others to help us bear fruit. Grace is everywhere. Let us always cooperate with grace, especially during Lent.