Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Mysterious God reaches out to us
God is ever present, but the meaning of God's actions often eludes us
March 18, Third Sunday of Lent
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
God is a mystery. Sometimes we like to think we have God all
figured out and then we come to an unexpected situation and God
is before us but behind a cloud which obscures our vision. God,
in the mind of the biblical writers was present to them but
always incomprehensible. God asked Job where and who he was
thinking that he could understand.
Our first reading is one in which Moses asks for God's name. God
had been known as the God of the Fathers, or the God of Abraham,
Isaac, and Job. On the holy mountain where Moses finds a burning
bush, that is not consumed, he encounters this mysterious God. It
is a place where God will be known in a new and wonderful way.
God will be the savior of the people of Israel rescuing them from
the slavery of Egypt. God reveals a name, which still today is
mysterious. It is translated in a variety of ways. The name
sometimes is translated as "I am who am."This may mean God is the
source of all created beings. Another translator has suggested "I
am always" emphasizing God's continuing active involvement in the
lives of people.
So God is a mystery and the actions of God often elude us in
terms of their meaning. Yet we also know that God has taken the
initiative and reaches out to us. This invitation is a gift of
God and invites our response. Paul, in his Letter to the
Corinthians, our second reading, points to the fact that the
people of Israel when they were in the desert, even after being
rescued and cared for, grumbled against God. And so they were
punished. God would punish infidelity if people failed to respond
to their call. The Corinthians are warned that they too must be
responsible for their actions and realize that the wonderful
gifts of faith they have received are no guarantee of God's
continued favor. If they, like the Israelites of old, did not
respond then they too might expect punishment. The lesson is that
being a Christian requires corresponding Christian living.
The Gospel reading from Luke recalls a past historical incident
in which some Galileans were killed even as they sacrificed to
God. We don't know anything about this incident but it sounds
authentic for Pilate is known for his brutality. Jesus used this
incident as a call to repentance. The horror of this event plus
the story of an accident points to the need to be prepared to
face God. One should be reconciled with God for one does not
know when such a tragedy might occur.
Jesus tells a parable to illustrate his point. It is taken from
the real life of people in his time. Typically the owner of a fig
tree might expect after three years of careful tending of the
tree that it should produce fruit. When it doesn't, I suppose the
owner expected that the tree would never be fruitful and should
be chopped down. Jesus says that a worker in the vineyard who
tended the tree suggested that it be given one more year to
produce fruit. Jesus does not say what happened and we can
presume that after the extra year a final judgement would be made
to save or destroy the tree.
The point Jesus was making as the whole of our readings are
making, is that God gives us time to respond to the call to
authentic responsible living. Yet God's love is a tough love, as
we in modern terms call it. Opportunities are not endless. We, in
the end, will be judged.
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious
studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)