RCL Year C Lent 3
Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, I Corinthians 10:1-13, Saint Luke 13:1-9

Recently I heard a man describe an attempted landing at the airport in Avoca. The airplane was arriving at ten-thirty at night while snow was falling. The landing gear was down, and the plane was about fifteen feet off the ground. The pilot pulled back and began to regain altitude. The point of no return had not been reached. The plane ultimately landed in Baltimore, and the man spent the night there rather than at home in Pennsylvania. The pilot explained that the visibility had become zero before he had reached the point of no return, the point when he had no choice but to land.

Just as in landing an airplane, there is a point of no return in our lives. Jesus describes the point of no return in the little parable that ends today’s Gospel. A fig tree planted in a vineyard bears no fruit for three years. The owner wants to cut it down, but the gardener intercedes to give the fig tree a year of grace, more time for the tree to bear fruit. But at the end of that year, the year of grace, the point of no return will be reached, and the tree will be cut down if it is still barren.

In Matthew and Luke, chapter three and verse eight, John the Baptist proclaims, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” It so happens that Jesus has been speaking of repentance just before he tells the parable of the fig tree. He says, “unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”[1] All the time we have is all the time we have to repent before we reach the point of no return, the point at which time runs out and repentance is forestalled.

Every year Lent is given to us to do what we need to do about repentance. If the sin is not telling the truth, we have to put away not telling the truth, and we need to replace it with a virtue. This probably means concentrating on what we say and making sure that what we say is accurate.[2] If the sin is stealing, we have to stop stealing and replace it with the virtue of laboring to have something to give someone in need.[3] Putting off bitterness and anger opens the door to putting on kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness.

Repentance can be very hard work. But repenting bears fruit, the best fruit, before we reach the pointy of no return. Repentance opens the door to salvation. It opens the door to resembling Jesus. It changes us into his likeness. Why else are we here? What other good would be as good to do?

[1] Saint Luke 13:3.

[2] Ephesians 4:25.

[3] Ephesians 4:28.