Reflection for Sunday March 24, 2019: 3rd Week of Lent.
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It's the Third Sunday of Lent – halfway through. For many of us, it's hard to admit that this Lent is not all we had hoped for. On Ash Wednesday, we intended to make some changes in our lives. And yet halfway through Lent, we are disappointed in ourselves. |Today's gospel tells us of a landowner who planted a fig tree that did not produce fruit for three years. Giving up on it, he tells the gardener to cut it down. But the wise gardener knows that what the tree needs is cultivating and feeding. He suggests, "I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future."|Jesus "gets" us. He understands our hearts and he knows that our instinct is to give up on the tree that bears no fruit. To give up on our Lent halfway through. Today Jesus tell us not to give up hope that we can be better. He offers us his love, care and his help.|But how and where do we begin this journey again? |Lent is not about our own efforts to win God's approval or to earn a merit badge on our souls.|Today, instead of redoubling our own efforts and trying to "manage" Lent on our own, we ask God, "What is it you want to give me this Lent?" There are still three weeks left. If I want to move to a more adult, growing relationship with God, it could lead to a conversation, heart to heart, as I ask,|What is it you desire to free in my heart so I can love better?|How can I be more loving to my family? |Where can I be a peacemaker with my children instead of a scold?|How do you want to soften my heart from being harsh with others to being more loving – in the way you have loved me?|How can I be less judgmental and see others as you see them?|How has my drinking, spending or use of pornography affected my marriage and my children?|What would it cost me to slow down my life so I can listen to you more deeply?|The traditional foundations of Lent are prayer, fasting and charity. These are not ends in themselves, not items to be checked off on our To Do list. These are the doors that open a deeper place in our hearts, part of the sacred ground God shares with Moses in the first reading. |When I fast, it can focus my attention more clearly on Jesus and how he wants to heal my heart.|When I give from my heart this Lent, it makes me more aware of those who need my help.|When I pray, it gives me a space to discover God's heart's desire for me.|God has a very specific and active love for each one of us and has desires for each of us for changes in our lives that will lead to our best and happiest selves. By freeing our hearts and changing our sinful habits, we undertake what Pope Francis calls, "a journey of preparation" whose end is the priceless gift of God's mercy.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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