Dear sisters and brothers,
Jesus employs very strong words in the Gospel today. We are called to repentance. We must break free from our slavery to sins and seek to do good. Jesus is very clear with us: if we do no repent, we shall perish.
The Book of Exodus recounts for us the encounter of Moses with the living God. As part of His plan of salvation, God called forth a leader and mediator for his people–Moses–who carried God’s message to the Israelites and led his people out of their enslavement in Egypt. Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush was a pivotal moment in salvation history. Although resistant at first, Moses embraced the will of God and his role in leading his people out of Egypt. This is a God who seeks us out, a God who reveals Himself, a God who asks us to live for Him and a God who is always faithful in His relationship with us, even when He asks difficult things of us. Sometimes we do not want to change our lives, to repent, and invariably we need reminders.
The First Letter to the Corinthians unfolds an abbreviated, cautionary narrative from Exodus. After being liberated from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites spent forty years in the desert before entering the Promised Land. During that time, they violated God’s covenant through idolatry and doubts against God’s providence. Yet, God remained faithful to them when they were unfaithful to Him. Saint Paul wants us to stay faithful, not to be capricious with God. At no time should we take God’s love and bounty for granted, as though we have won salvation and all its rewards and we no longer have any work to do. No. Rather, we must strive every day to live faithfully God’s Law while we trust in God’s love for us. No matter what the circumstances, we must be convinced of His love and care for us.
Saint Luke’s Gospel records strong words from Jesus; they are words that reflect the tradition of the Old Testament. God loves us intensely and wants our love in return. He wants us to turn away from sin and to turn to Him. The Parable of the Fig Tree is about repentance and mercy. God, in his mercy, gives us ample opportunity to repent and bear fruit. However, if we persist in the refusal of his love, we will indeed perish by our own choice. God does not rejoice in lost souls.
God wants to reclaim our hearts in this time of Lent. When we give our hearts and our whole being to God, good works result in abundance. As monks our sacrifices for Lent in the monastery (yes, we fast, pray, and stint on material things, too!) are less about us, but more about sowing seeds and bearing good fruit for the glory of His kingdom.
My sisters and brothers, may this time of Lent draw us deeper into the mystery of God’s presence in our world and in our personal lives. May we open our hearts to Him and seek Him with our whole heart and all our being. May this Lent be a time of repentance and love for us.
Peace and Everything Good!
Fr. Valery Burusu,