One day, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the temple: Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacriﬁces. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.
And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you: no. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.”
And Jesus continued, “A man had a ﬁg tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for ﬁgs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it continue to deplete the soil?’ The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertilizer; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it doesn’t, you can cut it down.’”
It seems easy to link sins and punishments. Every time there are political massacres or natural disasters we think about victims and sinners. We consider these events as consequences of God’s justice. It arrived with Pilate and the tower of Siloah in the time of Jesus. Catastrophes occur in many countries today.
Once again, Jesus withdraws from this popular judgment. He surprises us with new criteria. The victims are not guiltier. The sudden death is, instead, a general admonition to us. We must do penance and be prepared for the meeting with the Lord.
Remember Saint Anthony Claret: in his preaching he used to begin by exhorting his listeners to conversion and offering reconciliation through the sacrament of penance.
Does it mean that we must fear death without any preparation, when our life is unfruitful? No. The parable of the gardener interceding for the barren tree and offering to dig and add fertilizer fills us with confidence. Let us be attentive to the signs of Jesus doing it in our life. Let us recall the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Let us peacefully progress to the encounter with the Lord.
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