Our Lenten discipline is Christ's opportunity to do a little gardening with us, to remind us that we live under his word of forgiveness, to feed our roots with his own body and blood. It's not the bloodcurdling stories the world serves up that engage the depths of our being.
It's the story of Jesus that offers the nourishment for which our roots reach. It's his word of forgiveness, not the world's threats, toward which our leaves turn, seeking sunlight. These are the things that lead us on to bear the fruit the Owner has come to seek in the beloved garden. – Paul G. Bieber
It is easy to forget how the Gospel claims an urgent response from its hearers. Not only are we to ‘seize the day,’ we are to ‘repent and bear good fruit.’ The urgency is driven home in the parable of the barren fig tree. God forbears. God is always forbearing, like the vineyard owner who spared a nonproducing fig tree. It is an expensive proposition, really, to allow nonproductive plants to persist in one's garden. Better to prune the dead wood, so that the fruitful trees can prosper.
The point is even more urgent than the simple agricultural metaphor suggests. Luke introduces the story with uniquely Lucan material: the reference to horrific deaths and unjust fates. As bad as these deaths were, Jesus says, they do not compare to the fate that awaits those who are obstinate in their sin. The Galileans did not deserve their suffering, but they suffered. If there is a God and if God is just, then those who are evil must face a fate worse than theirs. The sayings continue Jesus' teaching on theodicy and place it in the context of an eschatological immediacy. – Jeffrey VanderWilt
God made David a “witness to the peoples.” In a kind of trickle-down effect, the combination of God's love for David and the mercies of David toward the people means that the nation as a whole will be a sign to the world. God's love for the nation and the mercies of the Israelite nation toward the nations means that the nations too will come to know God and glorify God because of Israel.
Therefore, those within Israel who are having difficulty following the way of God, should call on God, forsake their wicked ways and seek righteousness, not “spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy” (v 2). – Jeffrey VanderWilt
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
If the Corinthians are being tested (and Paul says they are: by sexual immorality, by idolatry, by complaints and grumbling) they are being tested in common, in communion. The communion is being tested, but not beyond their strength. After all, they have the cautionary example of the ancient Israelites to guide them, the exhortation of Paul to make that example clear, and the Spirit of Christ to empower them to live in his unity. – Jeffrey VanderWilt
Paul Bieber is pastor of All Saints Lutheran Church, San Diego, California.
Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003), teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.
Homily Service 40, no. 4 (2007): 13-22.