3rd Sunday of Lent – Second Chances

Stories of sudden death get our attention. Someone is killed by a falling tree. A midnight car crash takes two young lives. A doctor with the magic touch offers to save a critically ill child. This Sunday marks mid-Lent, and a special kind of hope and new life is on offer. A time of opportunity. A fresh start from our mother’s womb? Will Mr. Putin have second thoughts, a fleeting moment of grace? God acts in a flash. The fruitless fig tree was given a second chance. God’s ways are mysterious, but real. Francis has a name for God: Mercy.

In the parable of the fig tree we see the owner who is frustrated that his tree has not borne any fruit. We sometimes look with disappointment at our lives and wonder…. Why don’t I feel fully alive? I don’t seem to connect with an inner sense of motivation and purpose anymore. Do I need to make some changes? Listen to another voice? Most of us go through periods of doubt and seeming fruitlessness. The loss of a spouse, child or job can trigger such moods. The owner of the fig tree wants it to be cut down. But the gardener urges mercy; give the tree another chance. Maybe it will respond to the ‘call’ of the gardener, an image of Jesus.

Viktor Frankl was a psychotherapist in Vienna before WW2. With other Jews he was sent to Auschwitz, where he realized the most important thing he could do was to hold on to his will to live and help others to hold on to theirs. His Man’s Search for Meaning is one of the most inspiring books I’ve read. He taught that life’s meaning was to be found in a call from outside the self. That reflected the classic call from God to people, as we find in the scriptures. As he later put it: we should not ask ourselves what we want from life, but what does life want from us. And listen – Frankl, “Communion,”75.

During Lent we reflect on Jesus’ call to “repent”, to follow the road less travelled. His call comes through nature, scripture or those around us. Is it a call to privation or abundance?  He asked his closest followers, James and John, to consider being servants rather than sitting at the top table and being served. Jesus, like the gardener pleading for the life of the fig tree, gave the world the gift, promise and the compelling power of his cross and resurrection as the way to life.

Fr. QQ – 03/15/2022

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