March 03, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent

By Brian Pizzalato *
First Reading – Ex 3:1-8a, 13-15
Responsorial Psalm – Ps 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
Second Reading – 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel Reading – Lk 13:1-9

On the Third Sunday of Lent, the Church provides us with some amazing readings. When we look at them together, they lead us towards repentance.

The first reading, taken from the book of Exodus, recounts Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush. God call Moses while he is shepherding in the land of Midian and tells him to go back to Egypt in order to set God’s people free. God then reveals to Moses his most holy name, “I AM.” God goes on to command Moses to tell the people that He is the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In other words, Moses must remind the people that He is the God who has remained, and who will continue to remain, faithful to the covenants He swore to those three patriarchs.

In the second reading from his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul reminds his readers what happened after Moses responded to God’s call. They “all passed through the sea,” and, while in the desert, drank from the spiritual rock. They were delivered from bondage and given provision for their journey. Paul emphasizes that God remained faithful to his covenant.

However, St. Paul also reminds his readers of the people’s response to the Lord. They grumbled because of their slavery to the Egyptians. But they also grumbled against the Lord, as though he were also trying to enslave and kill them. Because they did not repent, they were “struck down in the desert.”

In the Gospel reading, taken from St. Luke, the theme of repentance is continued. Luke Timothy John notes in his commentary, The Gospel of Luke: “Luke has Jesus respond to these reports of death in the city in classic prophetic style; they are turned to warning examples for his listeners. The people who died were not more deserving of death than others. One cannot argue from sudden and violent death to the enormity of sin. Indeed, Jesus himself will suffer a death that appears to be as much a punishment for sin. But the prophet’s point is that death itself, with the judgment of God, is always so close. It can happen when engaged in ritual. It can happen standing under a wall. And when it happens so suddenly, there is no time to repent. Rabbi Eliezer had declared that a person should repent the day before death. But his disciples said that a person could die any day, therefore all of life should be one of repentance. The repentance called for by the prophet Jesus, of course, is not simply a turning from sin but an acceptance of the visitation of God in the proclamation of God’s kingdom” (p. 213).

During this Lenten season we are called to repent with a contrite heart. Let us seek out the sacrament of mercy. Thus, we will be able to hear the glorious words of Christ on the lips of a priest, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Brian Pizzalato is the Director of Catechesis, R.C.I.A. & Lay Apostolate, Diocese of Duluth and is a faculty member of the Philosophy department of the Maryvale Institute, Birmingham, England.

Brian writes a monthly column, “Veritatis Splendor,” for The Northern Cross of the Diocese of Duluth and his 33-part series on the sacraments for The Northern Cross have also been posted on Catholic News Agency's website, where he also authors a weekly column, “Road to Emmaus,” on the Sunday Readings, (which are translated into Romanian and posted on

Pizzalato is currently authoring the regular series, "Catechesis and Contemporary Culture," in The Sower, published by the Maryvale Institute. He is also author of the Philosophy of Religion course book for the B.A. in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition at the Maryvale Institute.

Brian holds an M.A. in Theology and Christian Ministry with a Catechetics specialization and an M.A. in Philosophy from Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. Brian currently pursuing an M.A. in Biblical Studies at the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO as well as being a Ph.D. candidate at the Maryvale Institute. Brian is married and has six children.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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