Sunday, March 24, 2019
Third Sunday of Lent
Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Responsorial: Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
Our God is “Gracious and Merciful, Slow to Anger and Abounding in Love and Fidelity” (Exodus 34:6)
I have witnessed the affliction of my people. (Exodus 3:7)
On Ash Wednesday, we began Lent with the age-old call to repentance: “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:12). That theme continues in today’s second reading and Gospel. But the first reading is something different. It’s not about our need to repent; it’s about God’s free, overflowing mercy.
For the children of Abraham, God’s mercy came in the form of release from slavery in Egypt. For us, that mercy comes in the form of release from slavery to sin.
God showed mercy and grace to the Israelites, not because they were perfect, but because they were his people and he cared for them. Likewise, he shows mercy to us because we are his children, and he doesn’t want to see us bound in sin.
Exodus was just the beginning too. From age to age, God has shown himself to be merciful toward his people. He told Moses that this is how he should always be remembered: “The Lord, the Lord, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity” (Exodus 34:6). Other prophets then continued the teaching, always referring to God as “gracious and merciful” (Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2). Even the psalms praise God’s mercy repeatedly.
When Jesus came, he focused his ministry on the mercy and graciousness of his heavenly Father as well (Matthew 5:7; Luke 6:36; 10:37). But even more important, he showed himself to be the very mercy of God. He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). He welcomed tax collectors and sinners as disciples (Luke 15:1-2). And best of all, he promised the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (23:43).
It’s no wonder that one of the most common sentences Jesus heard while he was on earth was “Have mercy on me!” It’s a prayer he cannot help but answer!
“Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion:
In the first reading, God comes down to Moses and speaks these words from the burning bush: I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them. The reading continues with these words: Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.” Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”
The Responsorial Psalm begins with these words of praise: Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The psalmist then describes these many benefits: “He pardons all your iniquities, heals all your ills, He redeems your life from destruction, crowns you with kindness and compassion. The LORD secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. It ends with these powerful words: Merciful and gracious is the LORD, slow to anger and abounding in kindness. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of what happened to the Israelites in the desert: I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea, and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. He goes on to say that These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer.
In the Gospel, Jesus warns the people of assuming that the sufferings or misfortunes of others were caused by their sins. These examples are given: 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!
The meditation is a reflection on the first reading, and its opening words reminds us that this reading is “not about our need to repent; it’s about God’s free, overflowing mercy.” It goes on to tell us that “For the children of Abraham, God’s mercy came in the form of release from slavery in Egypt. For us, that mercy comes in the form of release from slavery to sin.” The meditation ends with these words: “It’s no wonder that one of the most common sentences Jesus heard while he was on earth was ‘Have mercy on me!’ It’s a prayer he cannot help but answer!”
Take some time now to pray and thank the Lord that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness (Psalm 103:8). Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as a starting point.
“Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy.”
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