Lk 13: 1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?

No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’

He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

We Can Only Control Our Faith

Many of us unknowingly hold on to a false “just world” belief. This is the illusion that good things happen to good people while bad things happen to those who have done wrong and deserve it. It is easy to assume this. It gives us a sense of control and order in the world, and makes quick judgments of reward and misfortune easy. This is, however, an illusion, and one which can cause us to be self-entitled, self-righteous, victim blaming or otherwise confused.

Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, as he does elsewhere, that suffering in this life is not punishment for the sufferer’s sin. Actions have practical consequences, but we do not cosmically control external rewards and punishments of this world. What we can control is our faith. We can repent and commit to holier lives closer to God, with love and justice towards our neighbor—its own reward.

—David J. Herr, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic of the Midwest Province studying philosophy at Loyola University Chicago.

 

Prayer

God,
Grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The Courage
to change the things I can,
The Wisdom
to know the difference

God, your will, not mine, be done.

—Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr