You are here

3rd Sunday of Lent

Fr. Paul Koetter
Sunday, February 28, 2016 - 9:00am

Fr. Paul's Homily

“It’s Time”

As a child, I slept in an upstairs bedroom with three of my brothers.  On school days, early in the morning, we would hear Mom call up the stairs, “It’s time for you boys to get up.”  Our getting out of bed was a slow process…but we would drag ourselves out of bed.

Maybe 40 minutes later we would heard, “It’s time to leave for school” and so we did the seven minute walk to school.  For all of us, as we journey through life we continue to hear that “It’s time”: “It’s time for class”, “It’s time for work,” “It’s time to buy a house.” “It’s time to retire.”  It seems that in much of life, there seems to be a “right” time for things.

Our Scriptures today also talk about it being the right time.  It was God’s timing to save the people of Israel from their Egyptian masters but he needed Moses. And in the Gospel, it is time to repent and bear fruit.  So, let’s talk.

In our first reading today from the book of Exodus, we have the famous story of Moses and the burning bush.  Moses, an Israelite, had been raised in Egypt by an Egyptian princess. As an adult he had killed an Egyptian and fled for his life.  He settled in the desert of Midian, married and raised a family.  In many ways, even though he is estranged from his own people, his future seems to be marked out.  But, then he sees the burning bush that is not being consumed.  Moses is curious about the bush but when he approaches it, he hears a voice, “Moses! Moses!” And he answers, “Here I am.” And the voice says, “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”  Why is it holy ground? Because wherever there is an encounter with God, then we are on “holy ground.” 

Have you ever known holy ground…a place where you have encountered the Lord and when you were there, you felt like you were in a sacred place?  Maybe it was in church before the Blessed Sacrament or maybe it was at the most ordinary place?  Holy ground? A few years ago I spoke with a woman who had cared for her husband during his days with cancer.  As the cancer progressed, he could do less and less for himself, and so she had to do.  This involved during the most intimate things in his care.  She later talked to me about this experience and how she experienced it as a holy experience, to care for her husband in this manner.  For this wife, caring for her dying husband was ‘holy ground.’

Our holy ground might have been a time of great joy and exultation, or it might have been a moment when the cross was painfully real…but we know God was present, as he was present to Moses under the symbol of the burning bush.

In this encounter, God continues with Moses by saying that “it is time.”  He has heard the cry of his people in Egypt and it was time for him to step in.  He was sending Moses to them to lead them out of that country into the Promised Land.  Moses is not eager to go, but he reluctantly agrees.

It seems that this encounter with God carried with it a cost to Moses, a cost that he would spend 40 years fulfilling.  Every encounter with God carries a call…it ask something of us?  Why is this?  Perhaps when we encounter God, we are called to become like God?  In other words, the very presence of God is a transforming presence.  Moses’ life changed radically after the burning bush experience and he would be the greatest of all the Jewish prophets.  Isn’t this the power of love…to transform the one loved? Moses was transformed.

St. Paul experienced Christ and his life changed; Mother Teresa experienced God and her life changed.  These were radical changes, but there are also the settle changes that occur day by day when we encounter Christ in the Eucharist, or in the Scriptures, or in our prayer group.  Day by day, the Lord seeks to rub off our rough spots of anger, impatience, jealousy and pride.  Day by day, the Lord slowly changes us to become more like him in our love, our mercy, our courage.


An encounter with God will cost us…it calls us to change and become like Christ.


Our Gospel today concludes with a powerful story of a fig tree that has been planted for three years but still is not bearing fruit.  Three years was the typical time needed for a fig tree to become fruit bearing.  The owner, not wishing to clutter his garden with a non-bearing tree, decides to cut it down.  However, the gardener pleads to give him one more year to fertilize and nurture the tree in the hopes that good fruit will be produced.


The story is about urgency and the necessity to not postpone our decision to repent and become more Christ-like.  In the great movie, “Gone with the Wind” Scarlett, played by Vivien Leigh, returns to her beloved plantation of Tara.  As problems mount, Scarlett is overwhelmed and frequently postpones dealing with the issues before her.  “I’ll think about it tomorrow” she says.


Often times we act the same way…”I’ll think about it tomorrow” which results in decisions that are never made.  Should I forgive my brother…I’ll think about it tomorrow.  Should I visit my friend in the nursing home…I’ll think about it tomorrow.  Should I return to the sacrament of confession…I’ll think about it tomorrow.

Our scriptures call us to repent TODAY!  The Lord has given us some time, but we must not delay.

These three crosses before the baptistry are covered with your commitments to not delay.  Each small piece of paper represents a decision to do something: forgive a friend, to clean a closet out, to support a food pantry.  I was so impressed and moved by the response of all of you!  At first I thought one cross would be sufficient…as you can see we needed three crosses, front and back!  The cross is a sign of God’s mercy given to us through Jesus; we now use the cross as a sign of our commitment to be like him in showing mercy to others.

I would like to challenge all of us to return to the sacrament of confession this year.  As Catholics we are still asked to receive this sacrament at least once a year.  It takes humility and honesty to approach the sacrament, but it puts us in direct contact with the healing mercy of God.  This coming Friday, Fr. Juan or I will be hearing confessions from 2 PM to 8 PM as part of the 24 Hours for the Lord.  On Monday the 29th, Little Flower will have their Penance Service at 7 PM and our Penance Service will be March 9th at 7:30.  And if you check the Criterion, there are many more opportunities in the city.  Of course, Fr. Juan or I hear confessions each Saturday afternoon from 4-5 in the Reconciliation Room in the chapel.

It’s time to get up.  It’s time to feed the children.  It’s time to visit the sick. It’s time to forgive my brother or sister.  And, yes, it is time to return to confession.

It is time