READINGS: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15/ 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12/ Luke 13:1-9
3rd Sunday of Lent

As Moses got closer to the spectacle of the bush on fire, yet unconsumed, he heard the words: “Come no nearer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exo. 3:5).  This injunction would later become for the Israelites the norm for entering the temple (the holy place of worship). Sandals collected dust or dirt, and with the understanding that ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’, the Israelites removed their footwear before entering the holy place of worship.

Beloved, in this season of Lent the Lord is asking us also to remove our sandals so as to enter His divine presence. However, since we are entering not a physical but a spiritual place (God’s presence), we are to remove not our physical sandals but our spiritual sandals, which has collected not physical dirt but spiritual dirt – namely, sin.

What then are our spiritual sandals?  Like the physical kind, the spiritual sandals are not part of human nature (that is, we were not born with them).  Rather they are “things” we make and use (we can “wear” or “remove” them).  Spiritual sandals are, therefore, “things” by which we are led into temptation and sins (spiritual dirt).

Beloved, today, I want to call our attention to one type of spiritual sandals: the “occasion of sin”.  The “occasion of sin” is a place, an environment, event or encounter in which we are liable to fall into temptation and sin.  For instance, if I know that a particular place of entertainment can lead me into sin, then it has become for me an “occasion of sin”.  Or, if I know that a friendship (especially from a previous encounter) can lead me into sin (e.g. against the sixth commandment), then being with or visiting my friend could be an “occasion of sin”.

Several times in today’s gospel reading, Jesus Christ calls us to repent (reform).  Repentance entails the strong resolve to remove our spiritual sandals and the spiritual dirt (sin) it has collected.  Jesus Christ says that God’s mercy is great, but now (and not later) is the time to repent!  In the parable of the fig tree which was given an extra year to yield fruit or else be cut down, the message of Jesus is that though God’s mercy is unlimited, our time on earth (to repent) is limited; so now is the time to remove our spiritual sandals together with the dirt (sin) they have collected.

Let us conclude by recalling Jesus’ act of washing the feet of His apostles (John 13).  To get their feet washed by our Lord, the apostles first had to remove their sandals.  Beloved, as we prepare for the Holy Week during which we will commemorate the washing of feet by Jesus, let us remove our spiritual sandals of the occasions of sin and offer Him, not our physical feet, but our “spiritual feet” (i.e. our hearts) for cleansing.  He will cleanse them not with water, but with His most precious blood.  May we thenceforth remain cleansed until He comes again in glory. Amen!

By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis
Image Credit: Battle For The Soul is a painting by Danny Hahlbohm

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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