Ex 3:1-8,13-15; 1Cor 10:1-6,10-12; Luke 13:1-9
When I went home to our place, I happened to talk to one of the officers of our Christian Community called BCC (Basic Christian Community). She told me that once, before their patron saint’s fiesta celebration, some of the officers decided to have a disco as a form of fundraising for the improvement of their chapel even if others did not agree with the idea. Some of those officers were even told not to do it but in spite of other’s objection, the planned disco was pursued. What happened, according to this officer, it rained during the night of the disco. “They met their punishment for pursuing the disco,” she said. When we meet some personal accidents and tragedies, are they to be considered punishment and judgment coming from God?
If we are very observant, nature has an automatic way of getting even with those who abuse life’s natural balance. It executes by itself the Law of Cause and Effect. For example, when a person eats too much, he will have stomach trouble or suffer obesity. If he drinks or smoke too much, he will put into danger his health. If he will experiment with prohibited drugs, he will turn into an addict.
Moral life also knows this Law of Cause and Effect. If a man consorts with prostitutes who have AIDS, he will contract Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) or other venereal diseases. If he consorts with malefactors, he will end up murdered by his own kind and by the law.
When Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991 causing great devastation to Zambales and Pampanga like lahar (mud flow) that happened last Sept., 1994 many (not only few) considered it as God’s wrath over ‘sin cities’ of Angeles and Olongapo located within these provinces.
When typhoon Ruping wrought the deadly flood that swept Ormoc City and neighboring villages and other typhoons, the latest was Pablo last December 2012 that devastated some towns of Compostela Valley and other parts of Davao provinces. Some attributed these destructive typhoons to God’s retributions over non-repentant people. When the tailings pond of Philex Mining Corporation in Benguet caved in last August 2012 and sent 20 million tons of tailings to major rivers and the government imposed on the mining company a 1.3 billion pesos fine for the damage being done. This is more than Marcopper’s which was only 2 million tons but the damage was great. But Philex contested and said that it’s force majeure or because of nature or acts of God.
Are these tragedies and maladies really coming from God? We are given by God many opportunities to do well but we keep on disregarding them. Will God condemn and punish us? Jesus’ answer for this question is a very big ‘Yes!’ But our punishment will not be coming from Him but from us for He is patient, loyal, loving, all-good and will do everything so He can bring about a change in us. If we continue to be stubborn, disobedient and spoiled brats, we are to be blamed for the tragedies we experience.
Jesus in today’s gospel talks about judgment, punishment and answers two particular issues. Jesus is told about the ruthless murder of some Galileans by Pilate’s soldiers while they were in the middle of their temple sacrifices. The victims were probably political agitators.
The other incident was the construction accident which happened near the temple during the building of a water aqueduct. Apparently, it was a project hated by the Jews because temple funds were stolen by Pilate to finance it. So they certainly concluded that these people were great sinners for having suffered such misfortune and God punished them.
Jesus does not agree about this Jewish belief that all those tragedies and misfortunes befall us are punishment coming from God or if we are enjoying good fortune, it’s a reward from God for a good life. For the Jews, if your house is burned down or if you have a child born with mental and physical defect or your spouse died young or you got sick, it was a sign that God punishes you for the sins committed. Jesus says, “No!” We should not link sins with tragedies and misfortunes.
Who are we to judge? It is not for us to judge people and their sins. No one but God really knows what is in the human heart. These people who perished were no greater sinners than anyone also here. May be they are more holy than us. Also, God is not an avenging God, ready to pounce on anyone who violates the law. He is a compassionate God who seeks sinners.
Even people in the Old Testament found it very difficult to accept that tragedies and misfortunes were coming from God. They saw evil people prospered and they saw good people suffered from all kinds of afflictions.
We can even give our own examples in which good people suffer and their tragedies are not even the result of a secret sin. There are also people whose sins are known publicly and yet they are enjoying to the fullest everything life has to offer. Why Baguio City was hit by earthquake? Was it because people there were sinners?
These misfortunes and tragedies happened to each one of us are invitations for conversion. Everyday, a person must look into himself to see if he does right before God. That’s why Jesus says for two times: “if you do not repent, you will perish as they did.”
The word ‘conversion’ in Tagalog is Pagbabalik-loob. Balik means to come back or to retrace one’s step back. It means that one has strayed from the right path and will fall into mortal danger if one does not return, it means returning, giving back to God what is due to Him and that is, He expects fruits from our returning back to Him. It is not limited or measured by the tears we shed but by the fruits of a renewed life: love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (cf. Gal 5:2) that we made.
Loob means or pertains to the innermost part of a person, the seat of decision from which action emanates. Scripture refers to it as: ‘inmost being’ while we normally call it, “the heart.” When a conversion does not come from the heart, the core of being, conversion cannot be genuine. It is mere lip service because the heart is far from God. And conversion is not easy. It begins with self-examination, a process no one can do for you and a process that will never end until due time: admitting our true faults.
“If you do not repent, you will also perish as they did.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C