Today we take the next step on the Lenten journey that takes us from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week, Good Friday and the cross and then on towards the hope of resurrection. One of the key features of Lent is the opportunity we have for confession and repentance, the opportunity to own who we are and the things we do that harm others. Yet, as part of this, another feature of Lent as we do this, is our encounter with the absolute grace and forgiveness of God. As we own who we are, and as we own our failures we are offered unmerited grace that not only sets aside but completely forgets our flaws and failings. God’s ‘forgettery’ is absolute.
Today’s Gospel highlights these things. Challenged by a horrific and violent story about the terror tactics of the Roman invaders, and about where God’s justice and condemnation should fall, Jesus tells the story of a gardener who cared for his garden with love and tenderness. Faced with a tree that persistently failed to produce fruit, the landowner encouraged the gardener to chop the tree down as a waste of space. But the gardener pleads for the tree, asking for time, so that the tree can be cared for, fertilised and watered, and encouraged to bear fruit.
The image of God we see here is of a gardener who sees sprouts where we only see barren and unfruitful land, who sees opportunities in the failures, who sees opportunities in the impossible – and who is always unwilling to give up on us. ‘Lord, give it one more year, and I will dig around it and give it fertilizer. Maybe it will produce fruit next year.’
There is a name for this: GRACE. There is always a second chance, always an opening for a new beginning, always a way back. If only the faith community is nourished and has some living water; if only she gets some nourishment and power from God’s Spirit, life can begin to emerge and then there will be fruit. These things are true for us as individuals of course, but they are also true for us as a community of faith: God’s grace for us as Church is infinite and absolute, something we take on, and hold onto amid the shame of evidence of abuse occurring at the highest levels of the Church.
In peace, Mother Lynda