THEME:GOD GIVES US GRACEAND TIME TO REPENT
1st Reading: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
In the past, the Jews had a superstitious notion that misfortunes only invaded bad people, while divine favour or good things only embraced good people. This was evident in the life of Job when he was passing through moments of excruciating sufferings. His friends tried to convince him that the reason why those terrible misfortunes befell him must have been some sins he had committed, perhaps without knowing it (Job 22:5).
Sequel to this Jewish ancient belief, many people always tend to attribute one’s misfortunes to be caused by the atrocious acts he or she might have committed in the past. Yes, there is no gainsaying that nemesis or karma does catch up with people later in life, however, it is not always the case, because calamities or misfortunes can befall anyone, both righteous and sinful persons alike. God may allow them for a purpose, only when they may be springboards towards salvation.
Amidst our misfortunes, God still loves and cares for us, and He is always making plans daily in order to deliver us from our predicaments, even when we do not take cognizance of His graciousness towards us. In the First Reading, God (I Am who I Am) calls Moses from the burning bush and entrusts him with the responsibility of delivering the Israelites, His chosen people from bondage in Egypt, where they were being systematically persecuted and gradually exterminated for four hundred and thirty years. Was it because of their sins that made them remained in perpetual agony for those number of years? Not at all!
In the Gospel, while responding to the crowds’ questions as regards those Galileans in the past that were invaded by misfortunes and subsequently met their untimely death, Jesus Christ uses the opportunity to correct the ancient notion of the Jews; that the desire to find direct correlations between sufferings and sin are fruitless and miss the point, which is that all are sinners in urgent need of repentance. Hence, their death should serve as a warning to us unless we repent, turn to God and change our ways (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Unarguably, the people who suffer misfortunes are not necessarily the worst sinners; they may, in fact, be quite innocent. Just like Job, the righteous man, or the little children in Bethlehem who were massacred by Herod (Matthew 2:16); so, what sins did they commit? As the scripture says: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers them from them all” (Psalms 34:19). God alone knows why misfortunes invade good people sometimes, including innocent children, while a lot of wicked people prosper materially, and can easily get away with their crimes.
However, the truth is that nobody will get away with any crime he or she has committed, unless the person repents. That includes those who think wicked thoughts about their neighbours and say wicked things about them, as well as those who perpetrate evil. The day of reckoning may be long coming, but it will surely come. If it does not come in this life, it will surely come on the judgment day. That is when sinners who fail to repent will most certainly perish forever (Romans 2:6).
Moreover, the good news is that every sinner who repents receives forgiveness from God. Some people may not like that, rather, they may wish to see some particularly wicked sinners pay dearly for their crimes even after they have repented. Fortunately, God is not like us; “His ways are not our ways, just as His thoughts are not our thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8). Also, through Prophet Ezekiel, God stated categorically: “I do not take pleasure in the death of anyone, says the LORD GOD. So repent and live” (Ezekiel 18:32).
Undoubtedly, we can repent of our sins at any time during the year, but Lent is a privileged season for genuine repentance and forgiveness. We should take full advantage of this season while it lasts and repent, so that we do not perish. Just as Jesus Christ talks about the parable of the barren fig tree in the Gospel of today, which is being given a final chance, a period of grace, to bear fruit, so God gives us time and grace to repent and to bear good fruits (love, patience, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, etc.), and to use our positions to touch the lives of others positively in order to deliver them from their misfortunes.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul admonishes us through the Christian converts in Corinth, to avoid overconfidence or making similar mistakes the Israelites made in the past, when they turned away from God even after delivering them from bondage, and because of that, they perished and did not reach the Promised Land. But, we are to show gratitude to God always by our righteous way of living.
Finally, just as God called Moses and used him to deliver the Israelites from bondage, He also calls us in various capacities to use our talents, positions, occupations, vocations, etc. to salvage or alleviate human sufferings as well as deliver people from their misfortunes, instead of using them to victimize people or to perpetrate evil in the society (Matthew 25:31-46).
Nevertheless, even if we have made mistakes in the past, God will still forgive us once we repent and confess our sins (Isaiah 1:18-20). For the scripture says: “…with the LORD one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow in fulfilling His promise, as some think of slowness, rather He is patient with you, because He does not want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:18).
May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, deliver you from all your misfortunes and grant you the grace to repent from all your wrong doings this period of Lent, and also the grace for you to help and deliver those who are passing through excruciating sufferings, and at the end may you gain eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
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