One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the gospel reading personally. A great way of doing this is using the “Lectio Divina”; this is a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
We hope that it helps you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the 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 vineyard, 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; we shall see if it bears fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
What is the origin of evil? This is the question that pesters us, especially when we feel unjustly attacked, when life obligates us to pass through moments of misery, when we are victim to human evil, or when we contemplate the mystery of innocent suffering. And yet there is an experience that is perhaps more traumatic than that of evil.
It is the evil we discover inside our own hearts. When we descend into our inner darkness (or perhaps it would be better to say when we slip into it) life forces us to examine our inner demons and the evil we carry in our hearts.
It is a dark evil, where there is no meaning. It is senseless violence against our own selves and against life, the rejection of the world. Evil takes a form that only we are capable of giving a name.
We are just like the people that interrogate Jesus in the Gospel. We are more likely to seek the root of evil outside ourselves. We rail violently against the inexplicable moral degeneracy in the world, against human evil (that Pilate had massacred some Galileans), and against the senselessness of the world (the collapse of a tower), but we are much more cautious about examining the evil we carry within. And yet it is only the evil in our own hearts that can drag us to eternal death, that eternal inner nothingness.
Jesus starts by speaking about these deaths to bring people’s attention to another. It was not sin that caused the tragedy of Pilate’s cruelty or the falling of the tower, but rather it is sin (the evil within) that keeps us from discovering true life. And this is the evil we must fight against.
The evil in our hearts steals our lives away, it makes them sterile, just like the fig tree in the vineyard that gives no fruit.
In the Bible the vineyard is often used as a symbol of Israel, and for the same reason it is also the symbol of every child of God. In this vineyard, God planted a fig tree, the symbol of the Law given to the people of Israel and therefore, every man. Now, this Law planted in our hearts bears no fruit. The Law is the Word that the sower has sown in us but that we continually suffocate: for three years now I have come in search of fruit on this tree.
Jesus never tires of coming to look for the good fruits in our lives. The three years are possibly an allusion to his public ministry, and that extra year that the gardener-Jesus asks for from the owner of the vineyard is the year of grace that Jesus announced in the synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4:19).
We dwell within this dialogue between the gift of the Father who has planted the vineyard and the work of the Son who patiently cares for the tree. God’s desire is that our life should flower and bear fruit. When? We do not know: we shall see if it bears fruit in the future. The gardener asked for a year, the owner of the vineyard gives him eternity.
Questions for personal reflection:
– Can you give a name to the evil that lies within you?
– What paths of conversion would allow your life to flower and flourish?