I was thinking that a good title for today’s scripture reflection might be that bad things happen to good people. We know that to be true. We wonder how good people in our lives become afflicted with illness, trials and even death. I am not sure if the Galileans or the people at Siloam were “good people” but Jesus today poses some questions in the Gospel of Luke 13:1-9 to make a point about repentance and He tells us … Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He 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!”
A definition of repentance that I like says “Voluntary sorrow because it offends God, for having done something wrong, together with the resolve to amend one’s conduct by taking the necessary means to avoid the occasions of sin. To repent is to be sorry for sin with self-condemnation. (Etym. Latin repoenitere, to be very sorry, regret intensely.)”
I believe that God is so merciful, and there is no sin of mine, that He will not forgive. God loves me so much, that is not in question, but what is in question, is how much do I love God and am willing to accept and cooperate His grace to repent. I think that God has been more than patient with me. I have fallen to sin, over and over, and continue to return to Him, begging Him again, for His mercy. How long will His patience last? The second half of today’s Gospel sheds some light … 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.’”
When I continue to sin and am not open to use all the gifts I have been given to build God’s Kingdom, I “exhaust the soil”, but with my repentance and God’s mercy, I am fertilized by Jesus, the gardener in His mercy. His grace helps me bear fruit. But back to my original thought, even cooperating with the grace of God, bad things may still happen, even when I am good and producing fruit because following Jesus is the way of the cross. So yes, bad things do happen to good people and we are called to continue to pick up our cross and follow Jesus.