1.Exodus 3:1-8,13-15
2.1Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12
3.Gospel: Luke 13:1-9

"But for the grace of God"

There is a story of an old man who maintained his subscription to the daily news paper even though he had virtually stopped reading. His friend one day asked him why he maintained a subscription to a newspaper  he hardly ever read. This was his reply. " Every morning, before any other thing, I look up the obituary ( the list of dead people in the news paper) to see if my name is there. If I'm not there, I kneel down and thank God for the gift of another day."Fancilful, perhaps, but good too.

Let us imagine in our gospel today we have been given  a rare glimpse into the obituary section of a Jerusalem daily news paper one day in the life time of Jesus. That particular day, the story of the dead took up not only the obituary section but the front page headlines as well: " Bloodbath in the Temple, Pilate Slaughters Suspected Galilean Terrorists," followed by, " Tower of Siloam Collapse, 18People Feared Dead." Dear brothers and Sisters what can we imagine about the reaction of people in Jerusalem due to such misfortunes and disasters? to start with unlucky Galileans the reaction from people in Jerusalem  was probably, "they get what they deserve, serve them right. They must have been terrorist, thus they deserve a revenge from God." About those crushed to death people in Jerusalem could have responded to such act by saying, " It was an act of God. Only the Lord knows why those eighteen deserved to die  at this time, in this manner."

Let us learn something of wisdom from Jesus' wisdom in responding to such disaster and misfortunes disputes: The people who broke the news to Jesus conveyed it with the same mind " they got what they deserve, serve them right." attitude. Instead Jesus is not in favor of such ignorance and self-justification whatsoever. Jesus in response said, "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 that all others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did ( Lk 13:2-5).

Furthermore, Jesus does not agree about this Jewish belief that all tragedies we do encounter in life  are punishment from God or if we are enjoying  good fortune, it's a reward from God or if we are enjoying good fortune, it's a reward from God for a good life. It was a common understanding for the Jews that, if your house for example 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. However Jesus says, " No!" We should not link sins with tragedies and misfortunes. 

This line of thinking was not only with Jews, but also it is with us even today. Majority tend to perceive God as God of vengeance etc.
Who we are to judge? It is not for us to judge people and their sins. No one but really God knows what is in the human heart. These people who have lost their lives either because of accidents or incurable diseases were no greater sinners than anyone else here. May be they are more holy than us. Also let's bear in mind as I have said it once that 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. There are also people whose sins are known publicly and yet they are enjoying to the fullest everything life has to offer. For example what happend in Tanzania in the year 1994 when M.V Bukoba Ferry that sunk and  claimed thousands lives of people, was it because people there were sinners?
These misfortunes and tragedies happened to each one us are invitations for conversion. Every day, 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."  

In our today's readings more especially  the gospel reading, critically we are all invited to think about what happened to Siloam and blood birth in relation to our Christian faith. In the face of a natural disaster or personal misfortunes befalling other people, it is totally wrong to suppose that they must have done something  to deserve it which those who are free from the disaster did not do. The right thought about that is to realize that it could happen to anybody, and that it does not happen to us at this time, this is because of God's mercy and love and not because we have deserved it. Back in sixteenth century in England a priest named John Bradford was asked what he thought of the criminals who were being led to public execution, and his reply was: "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford." We can see the same attitude in our old man who reads the obituary column every day. He knows that but for the grace of God his name would be there on that page.

The attitude: "but for the grace of God, there I go" helps us make the best of the opportunity God gives us in prolonging our lives from day to day, from week to week, from year to year. We realize that , like the barren fig tree the extra time has been given to us for improvement, it has been given to us purposely, it has been given to us a chance to bear fruit. Clearly the lesson from our readings today is that the misfortunes of the less fortunate are not an occasion to stand  in judgment over them but an invitation to humble repentance, knowing that " unless you repent, you will all perish just as they" ( v5). For instance when we hear about earthquakes and plane crashes in the news, let us realize that it could happen to anybody, and if we have been spared to such disasters it is so that we might repent and bear fruit worthy of repentance.

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