If I said Michael Oher you might not know who I am talking about. If I said the movie Blindside, you might know what I'm talking about. Michael was a homeless, hopeless teenager, living on the streets, a mom hopelessly addicted to drugs, all of his possessions held in a simple black plastic garbage bag. Then a family inteverned, showed him love, took him in and helped him to become fully human, fully alive. Michael begin to excel in school and became quite the offensive lineman on the football team. His main job: to protect the QB's blind side. He was recruited by every school in the SEC selecting Ole Miss and then drafted by the NFL's Baltimore Ravens where he won a Super bowl. Wow. Second chances transformed Michael from no life to a great life, producing good fruit along the way.
We all have experienced 2nd chances; sometimes over and over again. Everyone is worth a 2nd chance, everyone is called to produce good fruit.
As people of faith we are called to say yes to the 2nd chances that produce good fruit.
On this 3rd Sunday of Lent we hear the parable of the fig tree. This poor tree is producing nothing for three years. All it does is take up space, exhausting the soil. The owner has had enough: cut it down! throw it away! I am done with you. Perhaps we have heard these words ourselves or possibly said these words to another, in anger. You are useless, be gone. But no, the gardner has another plan. Let us show mercy to this poor fig tree. Give it a year and I will cultivate, fertilize and care for it. Hope! Perhaps it will respond and produce good fruit. Perhaps we have heard these words too and maybe we have said them. I won't give up on you, let me care for you and help you. Together, let's produce good fruit!
All of us need a gardner in our lives and we too need to be a gardner for others. Of course the master gardner we all need is Jesus, who shows us his mercy and love. He will give us 2nd chances, sometimes over and over again, but we all must do our own part. We must respond. As generous as the mercy of God is, and it is generous, we have to respond. Even Jesus in this very Gospel reminds us that failure to act, in this case repent, will lead to death.
One of the ways we must respond, and we all know this, is to turn away from sin, even whatever that particular sin may be that hold us back, that prevents us from producing good fruit. Jesus calls us to newness of life, to produce good fruit along the journey and to share eternal life with him. He will provide the care, the fertilizer, the love but we must respond. Holy Confession is one of the ways we can respond. No matter how long it has been, no matter what any of us may have to confess, Jesus calls us, come, confess, repent and live. Confessions will be held every Wednesday night for the next three weeks in addition to all the generous times offered every week. Confession and repentance and fulfilling our penance will help us to see buds which turn to good fruit, the best fruit. Can I also invite you to one of our parish Lenten talks that occurs this week with Dr. Gregory Vall. His talk, focused on the powerful witness of St. Ignatius of Antioch, is another way to be cultivated, to receive more care that helps us to produce good fruit. The talks begin Monday evening and details are in the bulletin. Finally, can we make an effort to attend and pray the Stations of the Cross this Lent. On Friday evenings in this church we walk and pray with Jesus as he walked to Golgotha to die for us. Again, this devotion can aid us in our own growth in the newness of life Jesus calls us to.
I love second chances; I get to witness them every month among the many men I minister with at Rayburn Prison. I get to witness them every Lent when we welcome hundreds of new Catholics in our own diocese including those joining the faith in our own parish through RCIA. And I witness second chances everyday when I thank God, in prayers of thanksgiving, for the second chances given to me. He is always offering the mercy of a second chance, grab it and produce good fruit. Don't be blind sided.