Gospel Reflection Mar 20 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, March 20
Third Sunday of Lent
Luke 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.’”
Some Gospel passages make you want to scratch your head and say, “what is Luke talking about?” At first glance this is one such passage. In this passage, Luke speaks of two distinct pieces with a parable thrown in to round it out.
The first piece is about a political leader (Pilate), the second about a horrible construction accident and the parable is about a barren fig tree that is sapping the life out of the orchard. Just a bit about the fig tree. The fig tree is used as a metaphor for civil and religious leadership that was stealing the life out of the people. I have mulled over this passage for a couple of weeks and finally decided to reimagine how it would read if I rewrote it to reflect what is happening in our time. This is what I came up with:
The media broke the news about three weeks ago of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin had ordered the unprovoked invasion and now has mingled the blood of Ukrainians with Russian soldiers. Do you think that because these Ukrainians suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other people of Europe? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!
Or those 98 people who were killed when the beachfront condominium in Surfside, Florida, suddenly collapsed on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Surfside? 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 people who had elected a leader for their country, and when they came in search of leadership that considered the common good and benefited all the people, they found none. They said to the leader: ‘During your years of service, we have come looking for good results from your leadership, but we have found none. You need to go. Why should you exhaust the resources of the country?’ The leader said to them in reply, ‘Let me finish my term and I will turn things around; I will initiate new programs that will have good results for everyone in the future, if not elect someone else.'”
So, we are not so different than the community to whom Luke was writing the Gospel. People have always been trying to understand why terrible things happen to innocent people or why evil seems to prevail or why those in positions of leadership in civil or religious realms forget that the purpose of leadership is for the common good, not the self-interest of the leader.
We want to understand. So many of those fleeing Ukraine ask one question, “Why is this happening?” So often to the questions around unjust or evil things, there is no answer that will satisfy or justify. When we look at horrific accidents, like the collapse of the condominium in Florida, we want to blame someone or something. So often, if an actual cause is found, it does not take away the pain and suffering of those affected by the accident. The culture of Jesus’ time blamed the sin of the people or the sin of their ancestors. Jesus moves away from that idea. He does not tell us why bad things happen or evil exists or poor leaders get elected. What he does tell us is to stop judging why this or that happened to others but rather to pay attention to ourselves. He is telling us to repent – to turn our focus back to God. It is so much easier to pass judgment or place blame on others or situations than it is to look at how we are living our lives and how that affects others. In the face of injustice, we may have to ask, “am I complicit in the injustice through my actions or my indifference?” Sometimes our hand is also on the sword that slew us.
Why don’t you take a try at rewriting today’s Gospel passage and see what happens.
— Sister Teresa Tuite,OP
Catholic Relief Services: Stories of Hope
It’s 5 a.m. in the village of Xequemeyá, Guatemala, but Raúl and Lilian Chanchavac are already starting their day. First, they thank God for all he has given them—their two sons, a field full of plants and a successful business. They certainly have a lot to be thankful for. It all started with a dream to flourish and to help others do the same.
“All things are achieved when one sets out to do so,” Raúl says.
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