Third Sunday of Lent (C)
March 20, 2022
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.





Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!
Lord Jesus, born in the shadows of bombs falling on Kyiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who died in a mother’s arms in a bunker in Kharkiv, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, a 20-year-old sent to the frontlines, have mercy on us!
Lord Jesus, who still behold armed hands in the shadow of your Cross, have mercy on us!

Forgive us, O Lord.

Forgive us, if we are not satisfied with the nails with which we crucified Your hands, as we continue to slate our thirst with the blood of those mauled by weapons.
Forgive us, if these hands which You created to tend have been transformed into instruments of death.
Forgive us, O Lord, if we continue to kill our brother;

Forgive us, if we continue like Cain to pick up the stones of our fields to kill Abel.
Forgive us, if we continue to justify our cruelty with our labors, if we legitimize the brutality of our actions with our pain.
Forgive us for war, O Lord. Forgive us for war, O Lord.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, we implore You! Hold fast the hand of Cain!
Illumine our consciences;
May our will not be done;
Abandon us not to our own actions!

Stop us, O Lord, stop us!
And when you have held back the hand of Cain, care also for him. He is our brother.
O Lord, put a halt to the violence!
Stop us, O Lord!

(Prayer for Ukraine; Papal Audience; March 15)


O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,
who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving
have shown us a remedy for sin,
look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,
that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,
may always be lifted up by your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Ex 3:1-8a,13-15

Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro,
the priest of Midian.
Leading the flock across the desert, he came to Horeb,
the mountain of God.
There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire
flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush,
though on fire, was not consumed.
So Moses decided,
“I must go over to look at this remarkable sight,
and see why the bush is not burned.”

When the LORD saw him coming over to look at it more closely,
God called out to him from the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
He answered, “Here I am.”
God said, “Come no nearer!
Remove the sandals from your feet,
for the place where you stand is holy ground.
I am the God of your fathers, “ he continued,
“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
But the LORD said,
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt
and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers,
so I know well what they are suffering.
Therefore I have come down to rescue them
from the hands of the Egyptians
and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land,
a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Moses said to God, “But when I go to the Israelites
and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
God replied, “I am who am.”
Then he added, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites:
I AM sent me to you.”

God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites:
The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.

“This is my name forever;
thus am I to be remembered through all generations.”

Responsorial Psalm 103:1-2,3-4,6-7,8,11

R/. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills,
He redeems your life from destruction,
crowns you with kindness and compassion.

The LORD secures justice
and the rights of all the oppressed.
He has made known his ways to Moses,
and his deeds to the children of Israel.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.

Second Reading 1 Cor 10:1-6,10-12

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,
that our ancestors were all under the cloud
and all passed through the sea,
and all of them were baptized into Moses
in the cloud and in the sea.
All ate the same spiritual food,
and all drank the same spiritual drink,
for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them,
and the rock was the Christ.
Yet God was not pleased with most of them,
for they were struck down in the desert.

These things happened as examples for us,
so that we might not desire evil things, as they did.
Do not grumble as some of them did,
and suffered death by the destroyer.
These things happened to them as an example,
and they have been written down as a warning to us,
upon whom the end of the ages has come.
Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure
should take care not to fall.

Verse Before the Gospel Mt 4:17

Gospel Lk 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
Jesus said to them in reply,
"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!"

And he told them this parable:
"There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?'
He said to him in reply,
'Sir, leave it for this year also,
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.'"

Reflection Questions

  1. Where do you find holy ground?
  2. What tempts you to grumble?
  3. How do you experience the patience of God?

Catena Nova

 “It is my Father’s glory,” Christ said, “that you should bear abundant fruit and become my disciples.” But even when we have glorified the Father by bearing much fruit and becoming Christ’s disciples, we still have no right to claim the credit for it as though the work were ours alone. The grace to carry out the work had first to come to us from God, and so the glory is his, not ours.... This, then, is the Father’s glory, that we should bear abundant fruit and become Christ’s disciples, since it is only through God’s mercy in the first place that we can become the disciples of Christ. “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the performance of good works....” Yet even when we do keep God’s commandments, it is not something we do in order to make God love us, for unless he loved us first we should not be able to keep them. It is the gift of his grace, a grace which is accessible to the humble of heart, but beyond the reach of the proud. (St. Augustine of Hippo)

When shall it be that we shall taste the sweetness of the Divine Will in all that happens to us, considering in everything only His good pleasure, by whom it is certain that adversity is sent with as much love as prosperity, and as much for our good? When shall we cast ourselves undeservedly into the arms of our most loving Father in Heaven, leaving to Him the care of ourselves and of our affairs, and reserving only the desire of pleasing Him, and of serving Him well in all that we can?(St. Jane Frances de Chantal)

Those who have abandoned themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from God exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual. The simplest sermon, the most banal conversations, the least erudite books become the source of knowledge and wisdom to these souls by virtue of God’s purpose. This is why they carefully pick up the crumbs which clever minds tread underfoot, for to them everything is precious and a source of enrichment. (Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade)

Whatever did not fit in with my plan did lie within the plan of God. I have an ever deeper and firmer belief that nothing is merely an accident when seen in the light of God, that my whole life down to the smallest details has been marked out for me in the plan of Divine Providence and has a completely coherent meaning in God's all-seeing eyes. And so I am beginning to rejoice in the light of glory wherein this meaning will be unveiled to me. (St. Edith Stein/Benedicta of the Cross)

Why should you worry whether God wants you to reach the heavenly home by way of the desert or by the fields, when by the one as well as by the other one arrives all the same at a Blessed Eternity? Keep far from you excessive preoccupation which arises from the trials which the good God wishes to visit upon you. (St. Pio of Pietrelcina)

We react to bad news as to a form of emotional blackmail, obliging us to “feel” for the victims, and be outraged by someone who doesn’t appear to feel. But not Jesus. His attention is entirely concentrated on his interlocutors. It is not the events themselves which concern him, but their reaction to the events, and what that reaction says about whose power they are in. We can imagine the excitement of those telling him, wanting a pronouncement of appropriately apocalyptic tenor: the Galileans were not sacrificing at Jerusalem, probably at Gerizim. Maybe this was their punishment from God. But they are disappointed. Jesus completely de-sacralizes the event, removing any link between God and what has happened. Any link between morality and what has happened. If we are caught up in thinking like that, then we too are likely to act in ways moved by the apocalyptic other, the god of blood and sacrifice and murder, of morality linked to worldly outcome, and we will perish like them. To ram home his point, he chooses an example where there was no obvious moral agency, no wicked Pilate, no sacrifices of dubious validity: the collapse of a tower — maybe an architectural flaw, maybe a small earth tremor, the shifting of an underground stream, who knows. Once again, Jesus completely de-sacralizes the incident. It has nothing to do with God. But if we are caught up in the world of giving sacred meanings, then we will be caught up in the world of reciprocal violence, of good and bad measured over against other people, and we will likewise perish. Once again I stress: Jesus will not be drawn into adding to meaning. He merely asks those who come to him themselves to move out of the world of sacred-seeming meaning. What does it mean for us to learn to look at the world through those eyes? (James Alison)

Despite the barrenness that marks our lives at times, God is patient and offers us the possibility to change and make progress on the path towards good. However, the deferment requested and received in expectation of the tree bearing fruit also indicates the urgency of conversion. The vinedresser tells the master: “Let it alone, sir, this year also” (v. 8). The possibility of conversion is not unlimited; thus, it is necessary to seize it immediately; otherwise it might be lost forever. This Lent, we can consider: what do I have to do to draw nearer to the Lord, to convert myself, to “cut out” those things that are not good? “No, no, I will wait for next Lent”. But will I be alive next Lent? Today, let us each think: what must I do before this mercy of God who awaits me and who always forgives? What must I do? We can have great trust in God’s mercy but without abusing it. We must not justify spiritual laziness, but increase our commitment to respond promptly to this mercy with heartfelt sincerity. During the time of Lent, the Lord invites us to convert. Each of us must feel addressed by this call, and correct something in our lives, in our way of thinking, of behaving and of living our relationships with others. At the same time, we must imitate the patience of God who trusts in everyone’s ability to “rise again” and to continue the journey. God is Father and does not extinguish the weak flame, but rather, accompanies and cares for those who are weak so that they may gain strength and bring their contribution of love to the community. (Pope Francis)


Blame Games

            The look of death was about him.  As I knocked at the door of his mother’s house, I wondered what I would find.  It was the first time I came face to face with a man dying from AIDS.  I had no idea what to say or do.  I had a sinking feeling whatever I said or did would somehow be wrong.  And I would rather have been anyplace else than on Jim’s doorstep.

            Funny thing was, I soon realized we shared the same fears.  See, Jim had never seen a priest up close, any more than I had a person with AIDS.  Though his mother was Catholic, Jim was never baptized.  He never thought of becoming one either.  Since he was gay, he thought he was going to hell anyway.  So why bother with church?  But now that he was facing death, some things were bothering him.

            Like whether God was punishing him for being gay.  Whether he could possibly be saved.  And whether the church would even consider baptizing him.  Of course, my own worst fears came to pass.  In a feeble attempt to respond, I got all tongue-twisted, lost in a thicket of theology, painfully aware I was losing him faster than I was myself.

            If only Jesus’ words had come to me quicker than the abstractions I was spouting: Do you think that these Galileans [whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices] were the greatest sinners in Galilee just because they suffered this?  By no means!. . . . Or take those eighteen who were killed by a falling tower in Siloam.  Do you think they were more guilty than anyone else who lived in Jerusalem?  Certainly not! (G)  Oh yes, if only those words came to mind, as I sat there with a man who thought he was dying because he sinned greater than I do.

            But that’s human nature, isn’t it?  Whenever some problem arises, some catastrophe strikes, the first thing we think is that God is punishing us for some real or imagined offense.  And there is nothing worse when, in trying to find a reason for such things, we resort to scapegoating someone.  As the war in Ukraine rages, the voice of the Russian Orthodox Church in the person of its patriarch Kirill has done just that.  In a sermon 2 weeks ago, he commented on Putin’s takeover of the Donbas region,

In the Donbas there is rejection, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power....a kind of pass to that ‘happy’ world, the world of excess consumption, the world of visible ‘freedom.’ Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible: this is a gay parade.

            So there you have it.  Blame it on people like Jim.  Or on us capitalists whose Western habits of consumption have corrupted Russia.  Forget Putin.  Forget the oligarchs and their multi-million dollar yachts and luxury properties in Western countries.

            Buried in this inane sermon, of course, is the ultimate Scapegoat – God.  After all, the notion of divine displeasure as the reason for disasters can be found even in Scripture.  It’s there in Paul who says, God was not pleased with most of [the people whom Moses led from Egypt],  for ‘they were struck down in the desert.’  [And] these things happened to them, he says, as an example to keep us from wicked desires such as theirs (II).  So why not blame God.  Even Jesus said, we will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform (G) --- just like those people from Galilee and Siloam who met a miserable death. 

            But therein lies the problem.  Like the victims of those disasters from the headlines of Jesus’ time, there is no direct connection between our  sins and our suffering.  Paul goes on to say that God was not pleased with most of the people in the desert -- suggesting there were some who did not rebel -- yet they too shared in affliction.  And that God gave the same food and drink -- the manna and water from the rock-- to all in the desert, the good and bad alike; and they all passed through the sea out of Egypt (II).  So the innocent suffer along with the guilty, and the guilty escape, making these matters all the harder to discern.  (Can’t you just hear me talking to Jim this way?)

            So we are left, I think, with that parable about the fig tree Jesus told.  After years of bearing no fruit, its owner was ready to cut it down.  But the vine­dresser urged him to give it another chance, a little more time.  As God did with Moses himself.  Do you know why he was tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro out there in the desert? (I)  Because he killed an Egyptian some years before and had to get out of the country.  Yes, that’s right, the man whom God chose to lead the Israelites from slavery, to whom God appeared in the burning bush, who was the first to know God’s name, that man Moses once upon a time was a murderer!  But I assume by the time he was called, God saw a lot of good fruit Moses would bear, even if there were some barren years. 

            So once again, there is little if any connection between our virtues, or lack thereof, and the events of our lives, good or bad though they be.  No one is suffering in Ukraine because of their sins and no one who survives can credit their virtues.  Neither was Jim’s suffering due to his sexual orientation.  The evil of the former is due to one man’s decision, like Pilate’s cruelty toward those Galileans, and the latter’s was due to a virus. And a tower fell in Siloam because of faulty construction, perhaps due to a crooked contractor.  In which case, the blame was his.

            By the way, Jim was baptized before he died.  He left this world believing that merciful and gracious is the Lord, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.  For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him (RP).  He also died eating and drinking the same spiritual food and drink we’ve come here to share.  And it all came about because his mother happened to be in church one Sunday when a homily was preached about a woman who was turned away from one church when she got AIDS but found welcome in another.  That sermon gave Jim’s mother the courage to call a priest and ask him to visit her son.  Which is why Paul’s words are so important to any who, like Patriarch Kirill, think the way Jim once did about God, namely: Let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he fall! (II)




            For the Church, called to produce the fruit of repentance and faith; for all who gather in this holy place to praise God’s name; and for those who witness to the presence of Christ by their work with the poor and the oppressed.

            For the leaders and peoples of all countries, especially those affected by poverty, injustice or war; for the victims of storms and natural disasters; and for those facing changes, discouragement or unemployment.

            For all who carry the heavy cross of Christ in their lives; for the sick, the grieving, the injured, and the neglected; and for all who are the comforting hands of Christ to others.

            That civilians and those defending them in Ukraine might be rescued from the horrors of war; that governments might be guided to work for God’s blessings of employment and housing, education and healthcare.           

     For those who are suffering from natural disasters, violence, and terrorism; for the imprisoned – especially the falsely accused; for the addicted, their families and those who serve them.

            For the spiritual and physical well-being of all in this community; for those who have died recently and all who mourn them.

God of salvation,
we stand before you on holy ground,
for your name is glorified
and your mercy revealed
wherever your mighty deeds are remembered.
Since you are holy and forbearing,
turn us from every rash and shallow judgement
to seek the ways of repentance.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Interlude (Boyce)


Turn Thee unto me, O Lord:

O Lord, have mercy upon me,

for I am desolate and in misery.
The sorrows of my heart are enlarged:

O bring thou me out of my troubles.
Look upon my adversity: and forgive me all my sin.
O keep my soul and deliver me: let me not be confounded,

for I have put my trust in Thee.

(Spiritual Communion)

After the Lord’s Prayer, welcome the Lord and his invitation to deeper conversion and repentance.  Realize that you are a temple of the Spirit and therefore are yourself holy ground.  Look forward to the time when you can join your sisters and brothers once more in eating together of the same spiritual food and drinking of the same spiritual drink of the Holy Eucharist.



Closing Hymn


Be still for the presence of the Lord

The holy one is here

Come bow before him now

With reverence and fear

In him no sin is found

We stand on holy ground

Be still for the presence of the Lord

The holy one is here.

Be still for the glory of the Lord

Is shining all around

He burns with holy fire

With splendour he is crowned

How awesome is the sight

Our radiant king of light

Be still for the glory of the Lord

      Is shining all around.

Be still for the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place

He comes to cleanse and heal

To minister his grace

No work to hard for him

In faith receive from him

Be still for the power of the Lord

Is moving in this place.

Composer: David J. Evans (1986)