In Luke’s Gospel we hear a rather strange story. It sounds almost like a CBC, CNN News report. Some Galileans had gone to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer animals as an atonement sacrifice. The Roman governor, Pilate had ordered his soldiers to attack them as they offered their sacrifices. (Luke 13:1-9) Some of the people gathered around Jesus told him of the event. The context for the story is that among many people at the time (and even now) believed that it was because of the sinfulness of a person or of the world that evils befall us. This is not what Jesus proclaims.
Evils do befall us. That is a reality of life. Why does it happen? Where does evil come from? Why do bad things come to good people? Is there a meaning to evil in life? What is the cause of evil? These and many other questions have been asked by all of us at sometime. They have been asked by human beings down through the ages.
A lot of ink has been spilled searching for the ultimate cause of evil in the world. Not infrequently the cause as was the case in Luke’s story is passed on to God. It is seen as a punishment for sinfulness. Jesus rejects this. His response is a definite “NO”. God does to create or use evil to punish. But at the same time Jesus called on those who ask about it to repent. A change of heart in themselves can bring about a change in their actions and bring new life to the world in which they live.
The story in Luke is a call to repentance, a change of heart. For a disciple this is more than a Lenten activity. It is what we are called to be, modeled on Jesus himself. Repentance is that change of heart that will remake us to act as Jesus would act in our own world. Rather than asking why this evil takes place, we should be asking how do we respond and bring healing to the evil we encounter?
In the ministry that Jesus shows us throughout the Gospels this is his response to the evils he encountered. He healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, he reached out to the poor and the vulnerable, he welcomed the outcasts, the excluded and the abandoned. The response of Jesus is not to spend time and energy looking for why there is evil in our world. Instead he devotes himself to healing and reconciling it. This leads us to true repentance, a real change of heart.
Evil in our world has real expressions, so too should our change of heart take us into healing and reconciling real evil affecting humanity. Repentance that is real reaches out with loving response healing those who face war and violence, those who live in poverty and need. True repentance offers the open, welcoming hand to those who are the outcasts and excluded, those flee from violence and war, those who seek the recognition of their human dignity. To do so is to live the call to mercy and openness that marks this Jubilee Year.
Development and Peace calls us as a faith community to live in mercy and openness to all, seeking to express a climate of change for all peoples. To build a world that fully respects the dignity of all is to build the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed, a world of mercy and love, equality and dignity for all. To reach out to our sisters and brothers around the world as well as those who come to us in need is to live real repentance and show true openness and mercy.
Question ~ How is my Lenten repentance calling me to action for those most in need of mercy, acceptance and support here and around the world?