While the season of spring is still a few weeks away in the eyes of the world, as Catholic Christians we already entered into our own springtime on Ash Wednesday.
As a matter of fact, the word “Lent” was originally derived from the Old English word “lencten,” which means, “spring.” So the liturgical season of Lent is quite literally a springtime for us in our Christian journey.
Like the popular notion of spring, Lent is a period marked by melting, warming and growing. Those frozen or unnecessary habits that lead us away from our relationship with the Lord slowly melt away over the course of 40 days. Our cool hearts are warmed by the love of Christ as we strive to offer alms, fast from particular foods and drinks, and pray with greater devotion. Finally, our friendship with Jesus Christ grows as he enters into the spaces of our lives that were once filled by other things.
In the world around us, it is pretty much a given that there will be snow melting, temperatures warming up and new life growing into being after the cold freeze of winter. However, for the interior springtime to take place within our lives, there needs to be a personal disposition on our part to receive the blessings of our God. Our readings for the third Sunday of Lent do a marvelous job of highlighting this fundamental truth.
The second reading for Mass comes from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. The patron of our archdiocese wrote to the believers at Corinth about having a proper disposition with regards to the essential mysteries of the faith. Namely, we ought to approach the Eucharist with humility and gratitude.
Our spiritual ancestors, the Israelites, wandered throughout the desert and were nourished by heavenly food (manna from the skies) and miraculous drink (water from rocks), but not all of them reached the Promised Land — a consequence of their ingratitude. We who receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus — spiritual food and drink for our journeys — are called to be grateful and open to a loving relationship with him.
Within the Gospel according to St. Luke, our Lord Jesus lets us know how we can enter into a deeper relationship with him. He tells a parable about a fig tree in an orchard that had not borne any fruit in three years. Instead of cutting it down, the gardener of the tree wanted one more year to cultivate the tree and fertilize the ground.
In a very real spiritual sense, we are all fig trees in need of cultivation and fertilization from our heavenly gardener, who is Christ. Through the Lenten springtime, we are cultivated through the sacrament of reconciliation and heartfelt prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
We are then fertilized by the living Word of God through Sacred Scripture and most especially the Eucharist. Our eucharistic Lord acts as a Miracle-Gro for our souls, providing nourishment at the deepest level of our being and helping us to grow closer to him.
For the remaining weeks of this liturgical springtime, may our hearts remain open to repent of our sinful ways so that we can bear fruit for the glory of God and the betterment of our brothers and sisters.
Deacon Peterson is in formation for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is St. Hubert in Chanhassen, and his teaching parish is Immaculate Heart of Mary in Minnetonka.
Sunday, March 3 Third Sunday of Lent
- Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
- 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
- Luke 13:1-9
How are you cultivating your spiritual life this Lent?