It is simply tragic and foolish, for any of us mortals, to live by the fallacy that we “have time”. It is simply tragic and foolish also to assume that we have the right to find time for this and that, along with the right not to have time for certain other things.
Time is simply a gift given to us by the Lord. He is the owner of the vineyard where our fig tree is growing. It would be absurd to expect the fig tree to determine when its time is up. That right belongs to the owner of the vineyard. We do not determine when our time on earth will be up. Regardless of our productivity, of our ability to bear good fruit or of our sterility; regardless of our preparedness, age, health, goodness or lack thereof, the Lord reserves the right to call us to Himself whenever He sees fit.
The end of our life on earth could also be the result of a “Pilate” who mingles our blood with the one of our sacrifices, or due to a “falling tower,” or simply a little bacterium…or plain old age. Furthermore, contrary to what our human reasoning might tell us, death must be seen not as punishment for our sins or as a curse, but rather as the crowning and fulfillment of a heart that has borne fruits of love and service to God and neighbor.
If death were punishment, why is it that countless innocent people suffer and die every day? Death, from our point of view as believers must be seen as a tragedy only when the dying person had refused, day in and day out, to bear these fruits of love and service. So, it is not how our life on earth ends, but how well or badly, we would have used the time allotted us by our Creator.
St. Paul points out the numerous opportunities offered by Yahweh God to the Israelites in the desert. For a period of 40 years they had lived surrounded by the mighty deeds of the Lord. The crossing of the sea, the destruction of the Egyptians, the fiery cloud, the manna, the water from the rock, the ten commandments, the covenant, the tent of His dwelling among them, etc.
To continue with the analogy of the fig tree: how much manure and hoeing God had done around their roots! Still, the only fruits were grumbling, complaining, infidelity, idolatry, fear. So, they were struck down in the desert as a warning to us all.
Within the time God has given us, we are surrounded by His Care, by His Grace, by His Holy Spirit, by His Word. Yet, since God won’t infringe upon our freedom, He decrees to remain powerless, until we let Him in our hearts to motivate us to carry out our call to loving and serving.
Every year, Lent is another opportunity, another time when the divine vinedresser hoes and manures around our roots. Therefore, it is another opportunity to let Him inside our hearts. Evidently, given the poor yield we have given forth thus far, we need a lot of convincing and cajoling. I think this is the reason why the Church offers us this beautiful passage from Exodus on which to reflect.
What intrigued Moses was the fact that the bush was aflame but not consumed. That is God for us: the most powerful force, not for a prolonged period of time, but forever!
God is indeed love…forever. He is love that is expressed in tangible ways:
“I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and I 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 hand of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey”
This is what God does, because this is what God is; not just at the time of the Exodus, but from the time of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, our forefathers and unto the end of time.
We might overlook the significance of this seemingly innocent phrase: God had picked Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all our forefathers to be the objects of His love. In His love, they had borne fruit and now, for all eternity, they will continue to exist in Him. When, finally, God reveals His Name to Moses, He is not playing games with words. “I am who am” means “I exist from all eternity without anyone causing my existence; I am the only and exclusive absolute; I utter my Word and anything I call into existence, begins instantaneously to exist.
Apart from me nothing can be. It will instantly cease to be the moment I stop thinking of it.”
“This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations.”
“No beginning, no end to my being, to my loving.
No end to anyone whom I choose to be the object of my love.
And also no limits to the bearing fruits of love for anyone who lives in my love.”
For the prolonged time we have remained at the fringes of His love, we have been wasting the time He had given us and chose, instead, to be absorbed by the pursuit of things that burn and are consumed by time and use.
My dear friends in Christ, it is time to end our foolishness. It is Lent! It is the time to be embarrassed by our sterility and the meagerness of our yield. It is Lent!
If we let God into our hearts, they will begin to burn without being consumed. Let us remember that all the things we did without love, outside of His love, even the most promising and most exciting, turned out to be empty and boring. Our heart will burn with caring, with willingness to be the least, the servant of others, and never feel tired or spent. In God’s love we would cease being worried about ourselves and our rights, our interests, our profit.
We would also stop being vague about the forms taken by our commitment and concrete evidence of our loving God and neighbor. God’s love from within us will lead us to bear tangible and lasting fruits of justice, peace, service, compassion, healing, reconciliation, caring—all within the time He gives us. In God’s love we will not worry about how much we have done for Him and for our brothers and sisters, because we will be driven by the His Holy Spirit. In the Spirit of God, we are mindful that we are expected to be as perfect in our loving as God is; and as compassionate as our heavenly Father is.
This impossibility will not discourage us but, rather, remind us that this world, in us and around us, needs a limitless outpouring of Love and we would be very glad and joyous in our generous contribution, until we will rest in Him, in His Love and our good deeds will accompany us into eternity.