"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Christ calls us to conversion
Overview: This week’s first reading is about Moses’ famous encounter with God in the burning bush. Moses removed his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. The only other time this word appears in the Bible before this is on the seventh day of creation when God “blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” The place is holy because God is present, just as he was in the beginning. The name of God—“I am who am”—shows that God is not an abstract reality like “The Force” in “Star Wars,” but is a personal presence who cares for his people and acts in history, who “has come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.” This event prefigures Christ who came down from heaven to deliver all people from the slavery of sin. God is not just present generally; he is present with the downtrodden and all who suffer. In our second reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians about the danger of complacency. Corinth was a prosperous city and the people were well-off. But their material comfort obscured the things of God. Paul points to Israel and how despite the fact that God had delivered them from slavery and fed them in the wilderness, they neglected the covenant. They were “struck down in the desert because they desired evil things.” In this week’s Gospel Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree. The tree represented Israel, which had become morally bankrupt and spiritually barren. Jesus warns them that unless they repented, disaster would befall the nation. They no longer produced the fruit of holiness that God desired. For three long years Jesus labored to lead his people back to their divine calling (Lev 19:2). But like the fig tree they failed to “bear fruits that befits repentance” (Luke 3:8).
Key verse: “I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them” (Ex 3:7-8).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: ““Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom. Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life” (No. 1427).
Pope Benedict XVI: “Genuine freedom is the fruit of a personal encounter with Jesus. In him God restores to us that freedom that we had otherwise lost forever because of the sin of our forbears. We can undoubtedly try to build our life without Christ, but with the one consequence of remaining always alone and disconsolate” (“Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI”).
Life application: Lent is a time for conversion and a renewal of our faith. This week’s readings should remind us of those times when we’ve neglected our baptismal promises, ignored the teachings of the Church and failed to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-25). Material comfort isn’t necessarily bad, but it can make us complacent when it comes to our relationship with God. Sometimes the very things that make us feel good can enslave us or at least impede our spiritual growth. The Lord has come down to save us from our sins so that we will bear fruit befitting God’s people.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
Read Today's Scriptures online
Archives: "Breaking Open the Word"
For an affordable cost, you, too, can publish Breaking Open the Word in your newspaper, bulletin or journal.
For more information, contact Roxanne King, editor of the Denver Catholic Register, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 303-715-3215.