The Third Sunday of Lent
2019 – Cycle C
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; Psalm 103; I Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9
When was the last time your bare feet felt and were stained by the rich dirt of the earth?
How long has it been since you dug your toes into the soil; the soil, God used to make you and me?
It may have been a while since so much of our world is covered in concrete, artificial turf, black topped, and paved. Most of the time our feet are shod. We may go barefoot in the house but then it is wood, carpet, and tile that is under foot.
Reflection on our contemporary experience may give us insight into God’s command for Moses to take off his sandals. The point being: Moses, let nothing get between you and this, this being a crucial moment, a mysterious encounter with God through this burning bush. Moses, let nothing, not even the feeling at the soles of your feet, get between you and me. For it is not the ground that is holy; it is the moment that is holy and I want your whole self. I want your complete attention.
It takes an effort though to give of our whole self to the moment we are in. It requires concentration. The first thing Moses did when he saw the bush engulfed in fire is, “he looked on…” Moses took in the moment with his eyes. When was the last time you took in someone or something with your eyes, visually and wordlessly being present to the moment with no distraction?
It takes an effort to give of our whole self to the moment we are in. It requires time – time a lot of us claim we do not have; but we can surf the Web, read the Styles or Sports section of the New York Times, watch reality television, play video games, etc. You can fill in with your own reasons. Being present to the moment, watching, looking, what we call contemplation and meditation is not reserved for monks and nuns, clergy and other people expected to pray seriously. For are not all Christians expected to pray seriously?
To pray seriously, we need to be made aware of aspects about our contemporary ordinary waking consciousness. Do you find that your mind is constantly swarming, popping with ideas, bubbling up with reactions, opinions, lines of thought? Do you find that it seems almost impossible to calm our waking moments?
As a metaphor for the way the mind is, the Indian Hindu mystic and saint, Ramakrishna used the image of a tree full of monkeys jumping from branch to branch. The desert mothers and fathers of our tradition, monastics of fourth century Egypt, compared the way our minds work to a hive of swarming bees, or a small pool of stirred – up muddy water that needs time to settle.
If that is how our minds are experienced, have you considered that nearly all current practices: Twitter, Facebook, texting, television, the ever present IPhone, encourage constant distraction? Consider the distracted minds of the people in the Gospel. Their attention is on this act of cruelty and murder by Pilate against fellow Galileans and the innocent victims of a construction accident. Their minds are buzzing like bees about motives and who is to blame and whether the sinfulness of the parties brought upon them their suffering and death. It reminds me of all the speculation in regard to the anticipated Mueller Report.
However Jesus keeps driving their attention away from the monkeys and swarming bees in their minds back to themselves. “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” The Kingdom of God is not about a construction accident. It is not about political murder. It is not about a burning bush. It is about you and your sinfulness! It is so easy to allow the monkeys and bees to distract us from what is important to Jesus for us – our repentance and redemption.
Lent calls us to learn to be present to the moment. It is a time to bear our souls before God in prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation as we feel our feet dig into the soil of humility. An unexpected moment, like Moses came upon, that needs our full attention and the calming of our minds rooted before the presence of the sacred.
Moses, let nothing, not even the feeling at the soles of your feet, get between you and me.
[Ideas and passages are taken from John Garvey, A Tree Full of Monkeys from Only Wonder Comprehends, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.]