The grim mention of Pilate’s mingling the blood of Galileans with their sacrifices indicates a mass killing of Galilean pilgrims in Jerusalem. Pilate’s soldiers slaughtered Galileans in the temple where they make their sacrifices. The passage does not reveal why Pilate slaughtered these people. Historical writings states Pilate’s liking for brutality. Jewish historian Josephus, reports that Pilate had disrupted a religious gathering of the Samaritans on Mt. Gerizim with a slaughter of the participants (Antiquities 18.4.1) and that on another occasion Pilate had killed many Jews who had opposed him, when he misappropriated funds from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct in Jerusalem (Jewish War 2,9.4; Antiquities18.3.3). In a letter to Caligula, Agrippa I called Pilate “inflexible, merciless, and obstinate” and accused him of inflicting punishment without trial and many acts of cruelty.
Lent’s call to conversion and repentance
As we enter into the third week of Lent, today’s Gospel prepares us to hear lent’s call to conversion and repentance. Repentance in Greek is metanoia, a transformation of heart; a spiritual conversion. Not merely atonement. It means to change your mind-set, open to a new way of seeing things, adoption of a different perspective. To “see the pain and suffering of the world not as disturbing interruptions, but as an invitations for a change of heart.”- Henri Nouwen
Jesus rejects that the Galileans suffered because of their sins. He calls his listeners to repent. What calamity happened is history, and nothing can be done about it. Jesus’ listeners, however, can still make amendments to their ways, their life. Jesus does not condemn them, but points them to the right path. Jesus’ listeners have sinned (so do we), and he calls them to repent so that they might avoid a bigger calamity pertaining to their soul.
The pool of Siloam is in Jerusalem (John 8:20; 9:7) and, presumably, the tower of Siloam was near the pool. Jesus rejects that the eighteen were wrongdoers, but uses the opportunity to call his listeners to repentance, once again. His purpose is not condemnation but redemption. It is not too late for his listeners (it is not too late for us) to repent. Salvation is possible.
Both calamities, people died, with little warning for no clear apparent reason. Life is unpredictable and can be brutal, and short. How precarious our existence really is! It is this fragility of life that gives it urgency. We should consider the sudden death of others as warnings to ourselves. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – Matthew 3:2.
Jesus does not promise freedom from sufferings of life, but urges his hearers against false self-assurances. Life’s fragility demands urgency, urgency that provides opportunity for us to seize God’s graciousness.
Do you see the urgency to take action? Do you see the urgency to take steps to change, to direct your hearts towards God?
Jesus’ short parable about a fig tree speaks of impending judgment. The parable reinforces ideas from the first half of this passage. A vineyard is a common metaphor for the people of Israel, and the fruit to be expected from Israel is holiness. Jesus’ listeners would understand this connection as Jesus tells this parable.
A cultivated yet unproductive tree may continue to live even without bearing fruit, only because it has been granted additional time to cruise through. Similarly, this parable warns against false reassurance. Just because you have not been cut down, do not assume that you are bearing fruit, you are in the safe zone. Patience and mercy only temporarily keep judgment at bay
Are you like that fig tree, when will you bear fruit? When will you be ready, ready to respond to God’s will?
Why wait for tragedies to strike to redirect your life toward God
Tragedies and sufferings will normally draw people to God. Why wait for tragedies to strike to redirect your life toward God? We might not have the opportunity to do so; our lives might be snuffed out in an instance.
We, too, are being given a chance – For a day? A month? A year? We do not know when. What is clear is that we have no time to waste; we have to start today, act now. We cannot change the past. We cannot predict the future. We can grasp the present.
Have you decided on what you will give up or do this Lent? If no, why wait? What is stopping you from taking action now?
Peace and Joy
Philip and Letitia
Questions for Reflection
Do you see the urgency to take steps to change, to direct your hearts towards God?
Are you like that fig tree, when will you bear fruit?
Have you decided on what you will give up or do this Lent? Why wait, what is stopping you from taking action now?