From the Desk of Father Davis
In his kindness and mercy, he was actually warning them about the risk of squandering their lives. Not only were there some of the Pharisees and Scribes, but numerous people of Jesus’ day who had a faulty outlook about the consequences of sin. There was a prevalent circle of thought at the time that suggested that when bad events and physical harm would happen to a person, it must have been triggered by the personal sin of that individual; in other words, they deserved the tragedy.
For example, as today’s Gospel reading indicates, there were some who thought that, when the 18 people we killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them, the catastrophe surely indicated that these people had committed some grievous sin; the tower falling on them was a sort of divine retribution or consequence for the sin committed. This sort of thinking would be akin to the claim that those who died in the recent bridge collapse or plane crashes somehow deserved this horrible tragedy as their punishment for personal sin. This, of course, is a preposterous way of thinking. Taken to the extreme, it may lead some to think that they must be “OK,” because nothing bad has happened to them (yet)! An unfortunate spiritual arrogance or superiority complex could easily then be developed, leaving the one with such thoughts missing the whole point of life and of Jesus’ teachings. They would be living in perpetual state of fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop, risking the squandering of their lives.
Today’s Gospel passage challenges everyone to repent, forsake personal sin, and embrace a chosen change as evidence of spiritual health. We are not just mere victims of life and its circumstances. To think of life this way would be very superstitious, worrisome, and leading us to see life in frightful terms, always looking over our shoulders for something bad to happen. But Jesus announces another way to interpret our lives. He reveals to us another way to live. He invites each of us to take personal responsibility for our decisions, our human effectiveness, and our spiritual health. He challenges his hearers, therefore, to repent, to individually choose to forsake personal sin. This is what conversion and salvation are all about. Stated colloquially, “don’t be dead weight!” Either produce good fruit on the fig tree with the precious time you have been given, or risk the squandering of life. In short, today’s Gospel should evoke in us a new resolve to do whatever is required to bear fruit that will endure. After all, why wouldn’t we want to maximize our God-given potential? Why wouldn’t we want to live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God, rather than under the yoke of superstition and fear? A spiritual vision of life is, thus, needed this Lent. We are invited to live under the providential grace of the Lord, to be co-creators, architects of a fruitful life to the glory of God. Sitting around on our hands and waiting for the next bad thing to happen will only keep us in a perpetual depressed state. So much time would be wasted. Spiritual initiative is needed, lest we squander the precious gift of life.
I once read a poem whose truth has stuck with me for years. “We walk this path but once, so make of it what you will. Climb the mountains; see the coasts; live and be blessed. And do leave good footprints behind, for we only walk this path but once, my dear one.”
Yes; the decision to repent and pursue holiness, and placing God at the center of our lives, helps us to do just that. It comes with the invitation to a relationship, the blessing of a covenant, of a land flowing with milk and honey, and promise of life. May this Lenten season help us to say “no” to the slothful inertia that will only squander the precious gift of life.