“We have a compassionate God”
3 Sunday of Lent
Every tragedy reminds us that we live in a world in which we are not in control. In this Sunday’s Gospel, mention is made of eighteen people who were killed when a tower collapsed on them. Jesus also makes mention of a group of men from Galilee who were killed by Pontius Pilate. When tragedies like these strike, we look for an explanation, an answer, some way to try and make sense of the event.
We tend to try and find some reason for another person’s suffering – maybe it is due to their lifestyle, their sins, mistakes or choices; – we can feel a bit safer and more in control by knowing that we are not like that. That we are different. We reassure ourselves with the knowledge that we have not made the same mistakes. We have not committed those same sins. And we tend to put the blame onto the victims themselves, as somehow they had been the cause of what had happened to them. This becomes nothing but self-righteous attitude, thinking that we are better than others. Self-righteousness is a sin much more common than we think, which I myself maybe committing as I share this reflection. We forget that the dividing line between good and evil passes not somewhere out there, but right through our own very hearts.
But what is worse is when we turn victims into the scapegoats, shifting on to them any responsibility for some difficult situation and blaming them as being the cause of our own sufferings and difficulties. We come to think that if we were to drive them away, if we were to uproot them, then we would have found a solution to our own problems. There is nothing further from the truth, and we have seen this happening in history again and again, right up to our very times.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the fig-tree, which a man wanted to cut down and uproot because it had failed to bear any fruit. But the gardener advices otherwise, and says that if it is given the right conditions and care, than it might be able to give the desired fruit.
The words of Jesus are the words of a compassionate and caring gardener who seeks to nourish life, who is willing to get down on his hands and knees, to dig around in the dirt of our life, to water, even spread a little manure, and then trust that fruit will grow. This gardener sees possibilities for life that we often cannot see in our own or each other people’s lives.
We have a compassionate God who, as we see in the first reading, appears to Moses in the burning bush. We hear him say: I have heard my people cry and I have come down to redeem my people. He is a God who does not condemn or judge, but is willing to give us a second chance as God calls us to repentance.
Fr Richard Ebejer SDB, Salesian Community, Limerick, Ireland