Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15; I Cor 10:1-6, 10-12; Lk 13:1-9
Nicky Gumbel tells us of a man who sent a check to the government for back taxes with a note attached that said: “I felt so guilty for cheating on my taxes I had to send you this check. If I don’t feel any better, I’ll send you the rest.” “Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand” We heard these verse in the gospel acclamation. The 3rd Sunday of Lent calls us not only to repentance but also do something for the kingdom of God, not remain a barren fig tree.
“OK, I’ll give the fig tree another year of care, but if it doesn’t produce, it’s out of here.” Today’s scripture contains a warning for us to make the best use of the time that we have on earth. We have all witnessed how some lives end far sooner than anyone expected. Last month I lost my brother at the age of 51, three months back our community lost Brandi Mannino at the age of 23. As painful as it is for us to witness the death of the young, we have to remember that the quantity of years is not important; the quality of those years is what really matters. What is the quality of our years? How do we make the best use of the time that God has given us? is something that we need to reflect daily.
We are each a fig tree planted by the Lord to bear His fruit. He gardens us; He nurtures us; He cares for us with Word, Sacraments, and the Grace to seek His Presence in others. But we must produce. We are living on God’s time, not our time. How well are we using this time? That is the challenge of today’s Gospel reading.
There is a story about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. In the story there was a very important job which had to be done. Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Everybody knew that it was a job that Anybody could do. But in the end Nobody did it. Now this caused Somebody to become quite angry, because after all it was Everybody’s job. But Everybody kept insisting, “Anybody can do it.” And Nobody seemed to realize that Everybody would never do it. Only Somebody would.
Today’s gospel calls us to be that Somebody who acts. It calls us to do this because there is an extremely important job that needs to be done: the building of God’s Kingdom. All of us through our baptism have been called to cooperate with God in recreating the world. Now clearly, Everybody has been called, but Everybody is not going to do it. That is why Somebody has to act. Perhaps because we know that it is Everybody’s job or perhaps because we know Anybody can do it, that so little action happens.
Today’s gospel is all about that lack of action. We are compared to barren fig trees, trees that produce no fruit. God is that patient gardener who keeps fertilizing, and cultivating, and hoping that Someone would act to build God’s Kingdom. Now the actions that build God’s Kingdom are actions that Anybody can do, but Somebody needs to do them.
This is the third Sunday of Lent. We are about halfway through the Lenten season. How many of us can identify in our lives, over the last three weeks, some actions that have helped to build God’s Kingdom? Are they there or do we find that it’s pretty much business as usual (with maybe a little less chocolate and alcohol)? The challenge then that I give to each of you here today is this: identify one action, one action which you can do that will build God’s Kingdom. Choose one action which will move the world a bit closer to unity, to peace, to justice. It might be picking up the phone to call a relative from whom you are estranged and simply letting that person know that the door is still open to reconciliation. It might be taking a few moments to educate yourself on current political or social issues that have a bearing upon the welfare our country or of the world. It might be giving a bit of your time or energy to some group that is working against poverty or violence. It might be speaking up to someone in authority who is abusing their power and insisting you will not cooperate. It might be reaching out to someone in your neighborhood who is in need—a person who you have thought for some time could use some help, but so far you have never acted to help.
Now is the time for action. Now is the time to do at least one thing to produce fruit, so that there might be at least one fig on the branch of the tree which was previously barren. Any action we do builds God’s Kingdom. I know that it’s Everybody’s job, and I know that Anybody can do it. But Somebody has to do it. That Somebody is you.