Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

There is a ping-pong match of sorts playing out in the Gospel this week where the ball that gets volleyed back in forth has to do with the timing of repentance.

The force behind one of the ping-pong paddles points to the realities that we are all sinners regardless of our manner of death; that we are all in need of forgiveness; that we all need to repent often; and that we do not know the day or hour of our death. So the WHEN of our repentance is very, very important.

The force behind the other ping-pong paddle points to the reality that God can be, will be, and has been patient as the sinner hopefully turns -- albeit sometimes painfully slowly -- toward Him once again.

There is an interesting tension in the Gospel that says to us REPENT NOW but it also seems to say that GOD IS MERCIFUL and PATIENT.

Twice Jesus says -- But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Jesus acknowledges that sometimes towers fall on people who when they got up in the morning had no idea that the sunrise that illumined their bedrooms was to the be last sunrise they would experience. Therefore, the time to repent is now.

On the other hand, the Gospel introduces the character of the gardener who convinces the orchard owner to wait a few more years for any sign of figs. The gardener says -- Sir, leave it for this year and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future if not you can cut it down.

The plan of a homily might point out this tension and ask what side of the net appeals to you most? Most likely, because of human nature, we find the mercy and patience side endearing. It gives us comfort, it makes us feel good, it tells us that we have a second chance. However, when will we take heed of the other side of the net? When will we hear the call of repentance to be immediate as if our very soul depends upon it (for it does!)?

Another part of this homily might ask the question -- What keeps us from the sacrament of reconciliation? Fear. Embarrassment. Shame. Not knowing or forgetting how to do it and being too ashamed to ask for help with the format. Fearing that the sins you have committed are too heinous to speak out loud. Fearing that God can not or should not forgive the sins you have committed. Fearing that it has been too long since your last confession and when you say the number of years out loud that you will give the priest a heart attack.

Each of these obstacles could be pastorally addressed in a homily to make for an important teaching moment.

Also, for you more theatrical and technically advanced preachers -- over 10 years ago I saw a priest walk into a confessional and close the door in the middle of his homily where he then began to comment on what he saw in the confessional -- its warm environment, its sound-proofness, the plasticized card that walks a penitent through the reconciliation format, the option of face-to-face or confessing anonymously, etc. it was really brilliant insofar as it tackled many of the aforementioned fears. He wore a wireless microphone to achieve his portability and remain amplified. Perhaps this is something you would consider adding to the homily thoughts above.

Blessed preaching.

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