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Third Sunday of Lent

Two plants appear as symbols in today’s readings. The first is the burning bush, which Moses observed when he was tending the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. It marked the beginning of his relationship with God, which would lead to the exodus from Egypt and the building of Israel as a nation. The second is the barren fig tree which was in danger of being cut down.
At the birth of John the Baptist people asked each other: “What then will this child become?” (Luke 1:66)

It is a question many people ask when a new baby arrives with a clean slate. The burning bush promised new beginnings for Moses and his people. However, they - like ourselves - frequently went astray and, like the doomed fig tree, did not bear fruit. Jesus seems to be giving two messages in the extract from Luke. The first is that disasters, like the two incidents he mentioned, were not a punishment for sin but part of human life, as we see only too tragically in our world today. The second is that God, the gardener, is eager to give second chances. Not only that, but he is prepared to do everything possible to help people to return to him. Perhaps the most important thing this Lent is to remember that his love is unconditional and it is the nourishment that makes our fig trees bear fruit.