Why?

Why?
Or maybe I should say, Whyyyyy???

Having raised three children I can attest that the first word that they learned was “no”, but the second one, that did not come very far behind it was “why”.

Good morning sleepy head, time to get up”, “why”. “Because the sun is up, it is a beautiful day and we don’t want to miss it”, “why”. “It’s Sunday morning and it is time for you to get up so that we can go to church”, “Why”. We all know that this can go on forever. They were born with an endless supply of “whys” and eventually we have no choice but to bring out the ultimate parenting weapon. The one for which there is no retort, the dreaded “because I said so”.

“Why” seems to be especially appropriate during the 40 days of lent. Why, is lent 40 days long? Why is it a different time every year? Why do we have to give something up? Why do we have to eat so much fish? I suppose that the Mother church could pull out that parenting weapon but in fact there are answers to each one of these questions. The basic answer is that they are there to help us.

Now that starts to sound like that other ultimate parenting weapon, the “it’s for your own good” argument. This is not exactly the case, the 40 days are reminiscent of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, the Israelites 40 years of wandering, Noah’s 40 days of drifting. This, when taken in concert with our fasting and abstinence, speaks of a time of preparation for the coming celebration of Easter.
But does this answer the question of “why”?

You heard it mentioned, at the beginning of mass, that our three confirmation students were on retreat this weekend getting ready for the celebration of their sacrament the end or April. Yesterday they spent some time cleaning up in the parish hall, praying here in church and skiing out to the Nordic Yurt. During one of their discussion times, I ask them the question of “why”. Why be Catholic, why confirmation and why now.

There was a smattering of because my parents want me to, and an I don’t know or two, but when pressed there was a good share of because I want to know more, learn more and be more involved.
If we all think back to our Confirmation no doubt it will stir all sorts of memories. Some of us were confirmed quite young, some when we were older. But all with a certain amount of unsurety. Maybe a little like Moses in the first reading.

Moses had not led an easy life. Set adrift in the Nile as a baby, taken in by Pharaoh’s daughter, a fugitive from the law and now today a shepherd watching over his father in law’s sheep. So, maybe it makes perfect sense that he should walk up to an odd burning bush and start to talk with a disembodied voice. I mean, who among us hasn’t seen a bush not being consumed by fire while walking on one of our surrounding trails and didn’t sit down for a bit of a conversation? The only strange part, in Moses’ story is that this disembodied voice says that it is God and sends Moses on a quest. Other than that, an everyday, run of the mill burning bush conversation.

But if you think about it, that commissioning of Moses, that act of sending him on his quest was not some minor thing. Let’s leave the entire name of the Lord part off for a minute and focus on this sending of Moses. We already established that he might not have been the first choice by our standards. His criminal record might have taken him off the list from the get-go, but God had other ideas.
When we were confirmed we might not have been as ideal a candidate as the three that you see before you today, but as we see with Moses in the reading of Exodos we all had one thing in common, we were all called and responded. “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.”

Someone once said that “Ninety percent of success is just showing up”. I have no doubt that these three amazing young men will do a lot more than just show up, but that does not answer the question of why?
Why confirmation? Why commissioning? Why Catholic?

If we had been at mass in Gunnison today, we would have heard a different set of readings. This Sunday is the third Sunday of lent but it is also the “First Scrutiny” for a young man from Lake City who is enrolled in RCIA. Their Gospel reading for this Sunday is the story of the Samaritan Woman at the well.
Remember the story? Jesus had stopped by Jacob’s well, in the heat of the day, when a Samarian woman came by to draw water. Jesus asks for a drink and the woman asks “Why”? Well not in so many words, she actually says, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” “How”, “Why” sort of the same thing, the important thing was His answer, Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,‘ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

Finally, and answer to the question of “why”. Not because “I told you so”, not because “your parents want you to”, not even because “you had nothing better to do that afternoon” but because, “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Like Moses the woman at the well had not lived the perfect life. That was perhaps the reason that she had to come down to the well in the middle of the day. She could not stand the judgement of her neighbors. That didn’t prevent Jesus from offering her this life-giving water. That didn’t prevent the Lord from offering Moses the opportunity to lead his entire nation out of slavery.

The interesting thing in both of these stories is that when asked to identify themselves both the Lord and Jesus gave similar answers. The Lord told Moses that he should tell the Israelites that “I AM sent me to you”. And Jesus told the woman “I AM … he, the one speaking with you.” The identity of the one that calls us is not in question.

The answer to “why” for us during this time of Lent is easier that we think. The “why” presents itself to us in today’s scripture, it hangs before us on the cross. The “why” is because our God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The question is not one for us to have answered, it is one for us to answer. In the Gospel we heard of the man that has planted the fig tree in his garden. We are that fig tree and the question that we have to answer for the gardener is when will we bear fruit?

As our confirmation students complete this retreat weekend and their confirmation preparation, please keep them in your prayers that as they are commissioned to go forth that they may always bear the fruit that is pleasing to our Lord.

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.’”

March 20, 2022

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