Tragedy… repent

Sunday Homily by Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD (Australia)

3rd Sunday of Lent / C

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15 
1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 
Luke 13:1-9

Just last week, we have witnessed the horrific events in Christchurch where a terrorist who seems to hate Muslims, went to a local mosque in time of their Friday prayers and killed 50 people mostly Muslims and injured dozens more with some are still critical in the hospital. A few years ago, Christchurch also suffered from a terrible earthquake where more than 250 people lost their lives with dozens of infrastructure destroyed and some are still waiting for reconstruction until now. 

In the gospel for today, Jesus was asked whether the Galileans who were massacred by Pilate were more sinful than other Galileans because of their fate. Jesus is very quick to point out that it is not the case. He gave another example of the eighteen people killed when the tower of Siloam fell saying, does it mean that these eighteen people killed were more evil than those who were spared from that tragedy? Of course not. What Jesus emphasised though is the need to repent. 

Suffering and tragedy are something that it is so hard to fathom especially when it happens to good people and evil people are spared. Sometimes it leads us to think whether God really exists or not. Many people tend to argue that if God truly exists, then why did he allow tremendous suffering and death in the world. If God is really powerful, he could have done something to prevent disasters from happening like an earthquake could miss a major city or evil people could be afflicted by cancer so that they wouldn’t do harm to other people. However, for those who truly believe in God, God doesn’t work in that way. As Jesus said, “God will continue to give sunshine to the good and the bad.” (Matthew 5,45)

When Pope Francis visited Manila a few years ago, there was a young girl who was given the privilege to ask a question. What she said was she was a victim of the typhoon Haiyan in 2014 and she was wondering why innocent children suffer and why nobody was willing to help them. It was reported that the Pope was silent and didn’t give an answer. When the pope was pressed to reply an answer, he just said, “What is there to say?” 

For many of us, we may not be happy and content with such an answer. But I think the answer is silence. The answer is silence not because it will soothe and ease our pain but silence will give us the opportunity to reflect and try to find meaning of all the pain and suffering that we are experiencing. Second, by being able to reflect and be silent, we will be able to find strength to overcome whatever life can throw at us. 

The message of Jesus for us is in the parable of the fig. When the master was getting sick and tired upon finding no fruits from a fig that is three years old already, the gardener pleaded with the master to give it another year, he will do everything he can. He will cultivate and fertilise the ground so that it may bear fruit in the future if not then, it may be cut down. 

Life will forever be a mystery to all of us. There will be questions that we can’t really answer especially with regards to pain and suffering. However, the message of Jesus is that we should take time to reflect on our lives and repent. Time will come that all of us will be judged by our Father in heaven and while we are still alive here on earth every opportunity is given to reflect, repent and reform. Let us do this now while we have time because the opportunity will not be with us forever. 

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