• Exodus 3: 1-8, 13-15 • I Corinthians 10: 1-13 • Luke 13: 1-9 • 3 Lent C ’13 •
Print PDF: Weekly Homily 03.04.2013
Soon after we humans began to know we were alive, we also realized life is transitory and death inevitable. Ever since we have struggled to understand and cope with suffering and death. Our ancestors considered disasters and tragedies as a form of divine punishment for human misdeeds. Many today continue to think so.
In our gospel text Luke tells us “some unknown people came to Jesus.” He does not tell us why they came. Pilate had killed some people in the Temple, and those who “came to Jesus” reported these violent deaths to him. Perhaps they wanted him to comment on the ancient Jewish association between sin and personal tragedy.
Jesus brings another example into the conversation. “Eighteen people died when crushed under tower that collapsed near the pool of Siloam.” In doing so, he rejects the association between sin and personal tragedy. Death by violent means, by accident, or by natural processes happens to good people just as well as to evil people.
Death and disasters are not punishments from God. A meteor smashes into a remote area of Russia. An earthquake flattens Haiti. Hurricane Sandy spreads havoc along the east coast. Such disasters are simply the natural consequences of an evolutionary cosmos. The misery we experience is not some form of punishment for sin. The Gracious Mystery we name God does not go about punishing us, handing out sicknesses, accidents or misfortunes in response to sin.
Luke tells us that during this interchange Jesus spoke a parable about “a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard.” “The owner said to his gardener, ‘for three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but I have found none’.”
The fig tree in the parable is a metaphor for us! All of us are in the process of becoming fully human. To be fully human is to become like Christ. In Christ we see and hear what we are able to be and how we are able to live. He was not burdened by fear. He was grounded in life. His loving relationship with God inspired his life-giving relationship with all people. You know what it is to be fully human. You have experienced what it is to be fully human in various and many situations in which God’s love inspired you to care for and promote the well being of others.
This parable is a reminder that none of us have become all that we are capable of being. It is a life-long project. Most of us have at least a vague idea that since the earthquake that devastated them, the common people in Haiti live in unspeakable misery. We could do so much to alleviate the suffering in Haiti and other places – but don’t. I do not intend to lay some sort of guilt trip. This parable is a reminder that all of us still are in the process of becoming.
I recently visited Cuba. The majority of Cubans are very poor. This is not because they are lazy! The average Cuban simply lacks the opportunity or the means to improve their standard of living.
While in Cuba I frequently encountered someone, often an elderly person, trying to tell me they were hungry and were asking for pesos to buy food. I do not have time here to explain my own inner struggle with those requests. I think it sufficient to say this. This parable about the fig tree reminds me of how far I am from being fully human and how poorly I live what I profess to believe. I continue to struggle with what my experience in Cuba means for me.
In this gospel text we heard the word “repent!” “Repent” — a change of heart, a change of our thinking, a change of our manner of living. The Lord is with us, inviting us “come, follow me.” So I invite you to join me in looking at your own life and to honestly identify how you can be more fully human. Basically that is what Lent is about. The forces of nature are great. We are totally helpless against those forces. Tragedies happen. People suffer, live in unspeakable misery, and die. The question is not “where is God?” or “why did God permit this?” The real question is “how does this suffering and death call me to be more fully human?”