March 11, 2007

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If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did. – Luke 13: 3 & 5
Today our Lord takes on the perennial problem of evil that often preoccupies our thinking. Why do bad things happen to good people, or conversely, why do good things happen to bad people? Specifically, our reading deals with two types of evil: moral (the Galileans were massacred by Pilate for unknown reasons) & physical (the tower falling on people). In our time Jesus might have cited the terrorist outrage on 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina or the tornado in Enterprise . Whatever the event, we are irresistibly drawn to speculate on what it means & what it is all about.

Our Lord turns this concern on its head & directs our attention away from the fate of others to our own fate, & it is not dependent upon the caprice of Pilate or the poor skills of bricklayers. Our fate is in our own hands. We are the ones who bring God’s will onto the earth. Speculating about tragedies is a misplaced attempt to match earthly events to the divine will that only leaves us puzzled.

As the “Our Father” makes clear, our mission is to do the will of God on earth. Leave to the fabrications of the mind the question of whether or not terrible events are God’s will. The will of God that is beyond debate is that we change & produce fruit, that we bring heaven to earth. That means we are in jeopardy now & must act immediately.

Why did Jesus pull attention away from speculative matters & redirect it to the fundamental intercourse between divine & human wills? We don’t know, but it seems likely that he was saddened by the sight of wasted soil & fruitless trees. I think He was troubled by the unrealized potential of most human beings.

On the eve of the great 1938 New England hurricane, a man living in Stamford , Conn. walked 2 miles to a dept. store to buy a barometer. Delighted, he hurried home & proudly hung it on his living room wall. But what he saw made him angry: the barometer indicated “Hurricane!” He then walked back to the store, handed the barometer to the sales clerk, & complained that it was defective. The sales clerk replied, “No problem, sir. We’ll replace it with a perfect one.” Again the man headed home with his new barometer, but by the time he arrived, his house had blown away.
The Word of God is sound & reliable. Those who try to second-guess it or exchange it or improve on it are courting disaster. Each of us, without exception, need to change our way of thinking & perceiving the world. If our highest priority is to satisfy our own appetites, we are not open to the possibility of change. Perhaps we hunger for power or fame or flashy cars or a home “in the right neighborhood.” Maybe we hunger for financial security or the chemical magic of alcohol or mind-blowing drugs. Appetites will differ, but to hunger after anything less than God & His Kingdom is idolatry whatever form it may take.

The fig tree that bears no fruit will be chopped down, but even before that happens, we know it is dead. The shell may be there, but not the sap. To say that it will be destroyed is only stating the obvious: it has already gone to waste. The prospect of losing even one soul caused our Lord no end of distress. That would explain why He wept over Jerusalem . Is He weeping for us? AMEN!