24 March 2019 at St. Peter & St. William Churches in Naples, Fl
Exodus 3, 1-8, 13-15 + Psalm 103 + 1 Corinthians 10, 1-6, 10-12 + Luke 13, 1-9
Today, Luke calls them, “some people”; and we know how that goes. Some people say this, and some people say that, and some people told me something about someone I know and I can’t believe what some people are saying these days. On and on it goes. It’s always some people, and sometimes we are some people. In this case, they are coming to Jesus with a rumor about a man they all hated, Pilot. Was it true or not? No one really knows. There is not one hint in all of history that would confirm that Pilot ever did what they said. It’s all a trap to draw Jesus into a no – win situation. With it, they raise the age-old question about why bad things happen to good people. Jesus says not a word about that. Religion does not offer any answer to that question. It simply offers us Jesus, who shows us with his life how it ends when bad things happen to good people like him.
He twists their little trap around with a question that catches them off guard. He speaks about something that really did happen, a construction accident that killed innocent people asking them if they thought those innocent ones were being punished, and suddenly some people have nothing more to say as he points out that death can come any way at any time, and what matters is that one be prepared and that preparation he calls “repentance”. We pick up this Gospel almost half-way through Lent as a reminder that these are our days for repentance, and time is running out. We are all one week closer to our death than we were last weekend.
What is happening with us is addressed by the second part of this passage. Even a passing glance at this world ought to make obvious that as disciples and apostles of Jesus Christ, we have not born much fruit like that fig tree which is takes up precious water and exhausts the soil producing nothing. In an age when ethics, Gospel values, and morality are brushed aside by ambition and power, when fidelity and truth are mocked as fake for the sake of one’s own greed, when human life and this earth which has been given to our care are destroyed for the sake of convenience and immediate pleasures we cannot ignore a call to repentance which simply change: a change of heart, a change of thinking, and change of behavior.
The life of Jesus Christ demonstrates how human beings can live in communion with God, no matter what circumstances may come. For those with ears to hear, Jesus presents himself today as the gardener who is giving us just a little more time to bear fruit before being cut down.