3rd Sunday of Lent – Cycle C
Note: If there are some of The Elect at the Mass, the readings given
for Cycle A may be used. The alternate readings emphasize water: the
water from the rock during the wandering in the desert, and the water
from the well in Samaria. The Elect are longing for the waters of
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
The story of the salvation of God’s peoples continues during this
Lenten season. Today we hear of Moses’ encounter with God at the
Moses (Hebrew: Moshe) was born into a Hebrew family who lived in Egypt.
As the story goes, the Egyptians had issued an order to kill all male
Jewish infants (commentators have suggested that this was to weaken the
Jewish tribal bond by eliminating male heirs, thus forcing
intermarriage and abolishing the priesthood). Moses escaped this fate
by being cast adrift in a basket on the Nile (at the age of 3 months)
and rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter who immediately recognized him
as a Hebrew (no doubt because Jews circumcised at 8 days and Egyptians
at 13 years). Moses, as he was named by Pharaoh’s daughter, was
raised as her son. One day in 1486 B.C. when Moses was forty (Acts
7:23), he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew and had to flee.
He went to Midian [so named for Midian, a descendent of Abraham through
Keturah (a wife of lower rank through whom the Hebrews established
their connection with the Arabian tribes (Genesis 25:1-4; 1 Chronicles
1:32)]. Midian was located on the eastern shore of the Red Sea in the
area of present Saudi Arabia and probably included the Sinai Peninsula.
He married a priest’s daughter and settled down to be a shepherd,
which brings us to the time of today’s reading, about 40 years
after his arrival in Midian.
3:1 [ ] Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the
priest of Midian. Leading the flock across the desert, he came to
Horeb, the mountain of God.
Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai.
2 There an angel of the LORD appeared to him in fire flaming out of a bush.
In Old Testament literature this expression may refer to God Himself or
His angel. Here we are most probably hearing about God making Himself
known to His chosen human instrument.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire,
was not consumed. 3 So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at
this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.” 4
When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God
called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!” He
answered, “Here I am.” 5 God said, “Come no nearer!
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is
holy ground. 6 I am the God of your father,” he continued,
“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
God shows His fixed resolve to deliver the descendants of the
patriarchs from their oppressors; and that Moses is to be His chosen
instrument of deliverance.
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Who can look at God and live? (Exodus 33:20).
7 But the LORD said, “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. 8a Therefore I
have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians
God intervenes because He has seen and heard the cry of His suffering people (Exodus 2:23-25).
and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”
The abundance of milk is one of the signs of prosperity and peace. The
milk used in Old Testament times was sheep or goat’s milk kept in
skin bottles. In regions where water was scarce or unsafe milk was used
to quench the thirst. Honey is also a sign of abundance. It was
essential in the diet of the nomadic tribes who did not cultivate
cereals, but was not favored by settled peoples as a steady diet.
Usually means date syrup as wild bee honey is not plentiful.
13 “But,” said Moses to God, “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?”
Moses is objecting to being chosen and trying to show that the people
won’t believe him; they won’t believe that he speaks for
14 God replied, “I am who am.”
The divine name manifests God to the worshiper; the old name, the God
of your fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), is not adequate.
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.”
The name in Hebrew is YHWH (Hebrew had no vowels). The name Jehovah has
resulted from a misreading of the name in Hebrew. Wherever YHWH was
encountered in Scriptures when reading, the title “Adonai”
(Lord) was substituted and the insertion of the vowel sounds from
Adonai into YHWH in the 19th century, resulted in Jehovah.
15 God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you
say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.”
This is my name forever; this is my title for all
After revealing His Name, God elaborates the mission of His newly chosen instrument and sets aside his objection.
2nd Reading - 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Our epistle reading for today mentions the wilderness struggle of the
Israelites, so it ties into the story of Moses and the people.
10:1 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our ancestors were all under the cloud
As in Psalm 105:39
and all passed through the sea, 2 and all of them were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
“Paul says the Jews were under the cloud in order to point out
that everything that happened to them is meant to be understood as a
picture of the truth which has been revealed to us. Under the cloud
they were protected from their enemies until they were delivered from
death, analogous to baptism. For when they passed through the Red Sea
they were delivered from the Egyptians who died in it (Exodus
14:28-29), and their death prefigured our baptism, which puts our
adversaries to death as well.” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D.
366-384), Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles]
3 All ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink,
Sustenance of supernatural origin; an allusion to the Eucharist
for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,
There is no Old Testament hint of movement of the rock, this is oral
Jewish Tradition which is recorded in Scripture here for the first
and the rock was the Christ.
To heighten the Corinthians’ appreciation of the parallel
situations, they should see the rock as equivalent to Christ now; the
continuity of giving.
5 Yet God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert.
In verses 1 through 5 Saint Paul establishes a parallel between the
situation of the Israelites in the desert and the Corinthians. He takes
it for granted that the readers are familiar with the Exodus narrative,
whose order he follows: the cloud (Exodus 13:21), the sea (Exodus
14:21), the manna (Exodus 16:4), the water (Exodus 17:6), and the
rebellion (Exodus 32:6).
6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
The chastisements inflicted on the unfaithful Israelites are a warning to Christians.
10 Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer.
On the basis of Exodus 12:23 (the Passover night), the rabbis believed that there was a special destroying angel.
“Those who were destroyed prefigured Judas, who betrayed Christ
and was eliminated from the number of the apostles by the judgment of
God.” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384), Commentaries on
Thirteen Pauline Epistles]
11 These things happened to them as an example, and
they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of
the ages has come.
The messianic period is the final period in salvation history (Hebrews 1:1-2). This is the period in which we currently live.
12 Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.
This is the whole point of this reading.
“Paul wants to remind us that we are not saved merely because we
happen to have been the recipients of God’s free grace. We have
to demonstrate that we are willing recipients of that free gift. The
children of Israel received it, but they proved to be unworthy of it,
they were not saved.” [Origin (ca. A.D. 240, Commentary on First Corinthians 4,45,2-5]
Gospel - Luke 13:1-9
Our Gospel reading is a mid-Lenten call for repentance that provides a
continuing balance to the Old Testament stories of covenant-making
between God and His people. God called Moses and the Israelites. He
demanded that the people of the covenant live a life of repentance and
turn back to the Lord. The people of the covenant are expected to bear
fruit. Our relationship with God cannot be taken for granted any more
than a marriage relationship can. Husband and wife must constantly make
decisions of love for each other. Priorities have to be set in which
the marriage relationship comes first; otherwise the marriage falters,
dries up, and often dies. The covenant must be renewed day after day
after day with decisions for the covenant of marriage. This is the kind
of constant decision making that is essential if we are to live in our
covenant relationship with God.
13:1 At that time some people who were present there told him about the
Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their
This incident is recorded only here, and is otherwise unknown in
secular histories. It fits, however, into the picture of Pilate that is
known to us from the first century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus:
“So he [Pilate] habited a great number of his soldiers in their
habit, who carried daggers under their garments, and sent them to a
place where they might surround them [the rebellious Jews]. He bade the
Jews himself go away; but they boldly cast reproaches upon him so he
gave the soldiers that signal which had been beforehand agreed on; the
soldiers then laid upon them much greater blows than Pilate had
commanded them, and equally punished those that were tumultuous, and
those that were not, nor did they spare them in the least; and since
the people were unarmed, and were caught by men prepared for what they
were about, there were a great number of them slain by this means, and
others of them ran away wounded; and thus an end was put to this
sedition.” [Antiquities of the Jews 18:3,2(61-62)].
2 He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these
Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other
Galileans? 3 By no means!
Jesus doesn’t condemn Pilate, he merely comments on the guilt of those so murdered; or lack thereof.
But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
Repent and be ready for judgment.
4 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?
Probably one of the towers that guarded the pool of Siloam (located in the southeastern corner of Jerusalem).
5 By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!” 6 And he told them this
parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in
The fig tree is a symbol of Israel.
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, 7 he said to
the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit
on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it
exhaust the soil?’
In Hebrew numerology, the number of completion; also the length of Jesus’ public ministry
8 He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and
I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; 9 it may bear
fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
God waits patiently for the fruit to appear; he wants him to be converted and live (Ezekiel 33:11).
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org