III Sunday of Lent, Year C

I don’t really have a “green thumb” but I have a little garden off the driveway of the rectory. When I arrived here, there was a large rose bush in that little side garden. The problem though is that it bloomed only one time for me and then never again. I remember chatting with a lady who helps with the garden – and when I say helps, she really does all the work. Anyway, I was chatting with her about how to make it bloom. I like roses so I didn’t want to give it up. But after 2 summers of nothing, we decided to dig it up and start over. I’m not very good at this… that’s why I have help! I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences of planting something that yielded nothing only to have to dig it up and start over. It what makes this parable so familiar.

When we read this parable in the context on our faith we can piece together that the owner of the orchard symbolizes God the Father, the fig tree is you and me, and the gardener is Jesus. After having been planted in the faith – via our baptism – and having lived our lives, God comes looking for the fruits – what we have to show for how we have lived. How we have loved and served Him and neighbor.

And what if we have nothing? What if all we have to show is selfishness – how we have loved, lived and served mainly ourselves? What if my rose bush could talk or the fig tree in the Gospel? What would they have said? … NO! Don’t dig me up … give me another chance. And if we consider ourselves to be the fig tree – what would you say to God the Father right now if He came for you? You would probably plea for a second chance. That’s precisely what this Gospel is about – second chances.

I think this is why Jesus places such an importance on repentance. First, lets recognize that there is a huge misunderstanding about what repentance truly is and how we view it as Catholics today. I think that we view penance – repentance – as punishment. Perhaps there was a time when that message was conveyed. We taken a liking to the culture’s “everybody is OK” attitude … “do what makes you feel good about yourself, I’m a good person, God will just forgive me, etc” … Yet true repentance isn’t about a merciless God who seeks only to punish and its also not all smiles, rainbows and butterflies. True repentance sees beyond the veil, it sees our eternal destiny – where we are going and the person we have been created to be … it also recognizes the obstacles of getting there … true repentance isn’t how bad we are it is about how good we ought to be … and can be with God’s help.

Today, in the practice of our faith, in the Church, true repentance propels us to the confessional, admits our shortcomings and faults … not to beat ourselves up but to ask God for the grace to do better … confession is the place, the encounter, for second chances … to love and serve better with a more sincere and devoted heart. Sure, this may hurt a little bit because lets face it, not a single person likes to admit their wrongdoings and failures… yet at the same time, the grace of God in confession changes us to become the person He created us to be … we become more fully ourselves when we turn to Him for mercy … and that grace of receiving mercy allows us to be more merciful to others … in the end, repentance – second chances – leads us to become more God-like inside and out.

I encourage everyone … not just a few – everyone … to make a point to go to confession during Lent. I don’t care how long it has been … I don’t care what you have to say – you can’t scandal me (and please don’t try either!) … confessions are offered every Wednesday at 6pm; every Saturday at 3pm … also by appointment (and please don’t think it’s a bother to me its kind of my job!) … we also will have several priests here on Palm Sunday afternoon for confessions so that you don’t have to go to me. The point is not be found lifeless… but allow Jesus to dig deep within, uproot the negative, and so come to life … becoming more and more God-like in our lives.