Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year C (19 & 20/3/22)

posted 21 Mar 2022, 01:34 by Parish Office

Where were you when Kennedy was shot? Can you remember what you were doing when the Berlin Wall came down? Who were you talking to when 9/11 happened? Big news events cause a stir and a response – we have only to think about the current war in Ukraine and the very large community response we had here in this church, with the area outside completely carpeted with people’s donations – it took a few days to sort everything, get it boxed up and sent off to Ukraine. Back in Our Lord’s day, it was big news when people heard that Pontius Pilate had slaughtered the Galileans whilst they were offering their sacrifices to God. Jesus is a Galilean. What will He say? And what about a pagan not only interfering with worship being offered to God, but actually slaughtering everyone whilst it happened? It was big news when the police entered a church on Good Friday last year and told the Polish congregation that everything had to stop because there were too many people in the church and they weren’t adhering to social distancing. So you can imagine how, in the first century AD, they wanted a public reaction to the big news story: Pilate in Draconian Clampdown on Northern Pilgrims. They were waiting for Our Lord’s live commentary.

Maybe they were a bit disappointed. There were no words of condemnation, no fiery rebuke. Instead, words of warning to the crowd. We joke occasionally in this country about differing attitudes in the north and the south and the stereotypes, the accents, and so on. So it’s interesting that Our Lord’s focus is not on the crowd’s attitude to Pilate, but on the way they sometimes use events to make themselves seem better than other people in the country. Those who were put to death by Pilate’s forces were not “troublesome northerners” who got what they deserved: “Do you suppose that these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.” You are wrong if you see this as a punishment from God – after all, you are just as guilty before God as they were. Perhaps here there is also the theme once again of removing the plank from your own eye, before you try to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye. If I may give a more modern day, and rather uncomfortable example: people condemn the Luftwaffe for bombing people’s houses as well as industrial and military targets, but the RAF did the same with the bombing of Dresden

(and that’s the Dresden on the east side of Germany, not the Dresden down the road from Longton).

We have to look to our own hearts, rather than condemning others. We are called to repent, especially during Lent. It might be an uncomfortable journey to see what sins we have hastily buried in our subconscious, but all sin can be forgiven, even the most unusual, the most serious or the most unmentionable.

Like the fig tree, God is looking at us to bear fruit. He is giving us more time to repent. But will we respond?

I’ll just finish with a story which makes a similar point:

A tribesman went to study at university in England, and after graduation, he returned and was made king of the tribe. He had a wonderful gold throne, but found it a bit uncomfortable, and he remembered how comfortable the beds were when he was in the UK. So he arranged for a bed to be delivered to his throne room, and had the throne stored up in the loft. He enjoyed sitting on his bed, having it lavishly decked out, and conducting his work from it. But one day, the ceiling gave way, and the throne fell through and squashed him. And the moral of the story is: those living in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.