WHERE ARE WE?
Unknown persons communicate to Jesus the news about the horrible slaughter of some Galileans in the holy precincts of the Temple. Once again, the perpetrator is Pilate. What is most horrifying is that the blood of those men’s blood was mixed with the blood of the animals that were being offered to God.
We do not know why they approach Jesus. Do they want him to express solidarity with the victims? Do they want him to explain what horrible sin the victims committed to deserve such a shameful death? And if they did not sin, why did God allow such a sacrilegious death in his own temple?
Jesus answers by recalling another dramatic event that took place in Jerusalem, namely, the death of eighteen people who were crushed by the fall of a tower of the wall near the pool of Siloam. Now then, Jesus makes the same statement about both events: the victims were not any more sinners than anyone else. And he finishes his intervention with the same warning, If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
Jesus’ answer makes one think. Before anything else, he rejects the traditional belief that misfortunes are God’s punishment. Jesus is not thinking of a “vigilante” God who goes about punishing his sons and daughters, handing out here and there sickness, accidents, woes, as his response to their sins.
Afterwards, Jesus changes the perspective of the issue at hand. He does not pause to give time to theoretical musings about the ultimate cause of misfortunes, by talking about the victims’ guilt or about God’s will. He turns his gaze toward those who are present and he confronts them with their own selves: they must hear in these occurrences God’s call to conversion and change of life.
Are we still shaken by the tragic earthquake in Haiti? How does one read this tragedy from the perspective of Jesus’ attitude? Certainly, what is primary is not to ask where is God but where are we. The question that can guide us toward conversion is not, “Why does God allow this horrible tragedy,” but rather, “How is it that we let so many human beings live in misery, so helpless in the face of the force of nature?”
We will not find the crucified God by holding accountable a faraway divinity, but by identifying ourselves with the victims. We will not find him by accusing him emphatically of indifference or by denying his existence, but by working together in hundreds of ways to mitigate the suffering in Haiti and in the whole world. Then, perhaps, we will sense in light and shadow that God is in the victims, defending their eternal dignity, and in those who fight against evil, encouraging them in their struggle.
February 28, 2016
3rd Sunday of Lent (C)
Luke 13, 1-9