“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13.1-3)
A story from China. A literal translation.
“As you are growing up some events that happen in the past may have disappeared from your mind. But there are some things that you will never forget. Never!
One day at the age of twelve, I was gluttonous. One of my friends came to me and said “How about a barbecue?” “Barbecue?” I replied. “Barbecue what? Barbecue would be good but what will we barbecue?” “A dog!” he answered quickly. My mind was racing. Dog meat. Ha! It is delicious. I was excited when I heard him saying this. It had been five years since I had ate dog meat. And that was cooked in a pot. And now we will have it barbecued. But where was the dog? Upon seeing my confusion, my friend told me his plan. Mr. Zhang had a dog and he would not find out who stole his dog. Mr. Zhang was blind and very old. It’s a good idea since we cannot afford to buy a dog. The dog was killed on an early Sunday morning when the old blind man was still asleep in bed. After cleaning the dog we took it to a hill, made a rock, set a fire, and placed it on the rock. It was cooked until well done. Although no spices were added it was delicious.
Two days later, my father said to me, “What a pity! Someone stole the blind man’s dog and killed it. The remains were found on the hill. It is just like breaking his legs.” How I was ashamed of my conduct. The dog was the blind man’s guiding light. He depended on it. But I had broken it off. I must make an apology but I dare not. He would never forgive me, I thought. One year passed. The blind man’s health was getting bad. He had since gotten another dog but it was of no help to him. He had to be in the bed all day and all night. I could not have peace anymore. I still could not endure telling the truth. I decided to make an apology, though I thought it would probably be to late. To my surprise he smiled after hearing my confession of the truth. With a smile on his face he said “Was it good tasting? Take good care of your dog.” As he said this he looked at the dog lying by the foot of the bed. My father told me that the blind man knew the truth just the day after the dog was killed. He had asked my father not to scold us. He had hoped to get an apology from us who assumed no one knew the truth. Now he got it. He wanted to give the dog to me for a memory. Now I understood his words “Take good care of your dog.” Tears puddled in my eyes.”
A amazing story with deep lessons. About sin and the suffering sin provokes and about forgiveness and the new life it releases…
God is Urgent
Jesus also finds himself in front of amazing situations today and comes out with deep lessons. Some people approach Jesus and confront him with the top stories of the day. The headline news. Pilate had just done something abominable. He had killed some Galileans and mixed their blood with the blood of the animals they were sacrificing. Why, they ask him, if God is behind all events, did this happen to them? Where they bigger sinners? Did they merit such a grisly, repulsive death? Or the other event – the tower of Siloam. Why should it fall on those eighteen persons? Is there a link between the kind of lives they lived and this sudden tragic death which they suffered? Every good Jew desires to die in his own bed surrounded by his family and the Rabbi, in a liturgy of prayer and singing of Psalms. Why did these eighteen people meet such a dreadful end?
Jesus does not fall into the trap of theological futile discussion. When presented with a problem, he always deals with the person. He is concerned with the person not with the problem! He immediately draws a conclusion from these events. These events are screaming out a message. They are saying : Take heed! Life is serious. “No it is not a question of more sins or less sins. It is deeper. I tell you unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” The most urgent issue, he is saying, is YOUR life, your soul, your salvation. Jesus is always blood earnest about person commitment.
Taking the cue from these events, Jesus tries shake up his listeners. He does this constantly with us. Because there is always the temptation for us to sit down and relax in our stupid mediocrity. We always have this tendency to lower our ideals and close ourselves in our small protected lifestyle, thinking that life is a cozy sofa watching TV and eating popcorn! When we were young, yes, we dreamt, and we hoped and our ideals were high .. we shall build a better world, my marriage will be better than my mum and dad, I shall be honest and respectful .. but then slowly life thought us to be practical, sensible, down to earth… and perhaps we find ourselves with a reasonable, gray, dull life all centered on me and my immediate family! I am only interested in making ME happy.
This is sad. Very sad. Because when God brought you here in earth, He had marvelous plans about you. He wanted for you a happy fruitful fulfilling life. He wanted you to so something beautiful for others. He hates this drab, dismal, monotonous existence which perhaps you may be living. That is why He nudges us to look around us and see the suffering which exists. Do you believe that this woman who is a good person, excellent family, very out going, with three children, and they will soon be orphans and her husband mad at God because she has leukemia, do you think this is a punishment from God Do you think this happened to her because she is worse than you? Those people who today are destroyed because they are suffering hunger, or because their husband is an alcoholic, or have kids who are on ice, or simply have no money to pay for the heating, do they think they are more guilty than you? Or the sudden death of your brother in law? Why to him?
As you witness such things, Lord expects that you yourself draw a conclusion. These events are a call to conversion for you. These are not punishments. They are simply reminders. Reminders of what? Reminders that life has to be in tension towards something or else it is nothing. These events are an effort of God to reach out and force you to widen your horizons. To advance sometimes, we have to turn around.
We Have a Mission
You cannot simply live for yourself. As if nothing else matters. God has a mission of each one of us. Yes, a real mission. We are Christians not simply to save our souls. We are not Christians for ourselves. He wants us to bring salvation to others. To help others understand how much God loves them. That he sent his only Son on the cross so that they can receive life. That his resurrection is real.
Repent, he is saying. Realize that sin stinks. Sin does not give the happiness that it promises. I was reading this story , called The Bird cage, which is so true.
A man was on the side of the road with a large bird cage. A boy noticed that the cage was full of birds of many kinds. “Where did you get those birds?” he asked. “Oh, all over the place,” the man replied. “I lure them with crumbs, pretend I’m their friend then when they are close, I net them and shove them into my cage.” “And what are you going to do with them now?” The man grinned, “I’m going to prod them with sticks, and get them really mad so they fight and kill each other. Those that survive, I will kill. None will escape.”
The boy looked steadily at the man. What made him do such things? He looked into the cruel, hard eyes. Then he looked at the birds, defenseless, without hope. “Can I buy those birds?” the boy asked. The man hid a smile, aware that he could be on to a good thing if he played his cards right. “Well,” he said hesitantly, “The cage is pretty expensive, and I spent a lot of time collecting these birds, I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you have the lot, birds, cage and all for hundred dollars and that jacket you’re wearing.” The boy paused, ten pounds was all he had, and the jacket was new and very special, in fact it was his prized possession. Slowly, he took out the hundred dollars and handed it over, then even more slowly he took off his jacket, gave it one last look then handed that over too. And then – well, you’ve guessed it – he opened the door and let the birds go free.
This story is true. The Enemy of the world, Satan, was on the side of life’s road with a very large cage. The man coming towards him noticed that it was crammed full of people of every kind, young, old, from every race and nation. “Where did you get these people?” the man asked. “Oh, from all over the world,” Satan replied. “I lure them with drink, drugs, lust, lies, anger, hate, love of money and all manner of things. I pretend I’m their friend, out to give them a good time, then when I’ve hooked them, into the cage they go.” “And what are you going to do with them now?” asked the man. Satan grinned. “I’m going to prod them, provoke them, get them to hate and destroy each other; I’ll stir up racial hatred, defiance of law and order; I’ll make people bored, lonely, dissatisfied, confused and restless. It’s easy. People will always listen to what I offer them and , what’s better, blame God for the outcome!” “And then what?” the man asked. “Those who do not destroy themselves, I will destroy. None will escape me.” The man stepped forward. “Can I buy these people from you?” he asked. Satan snarled, “Yes, but it will cost you your life.”
Do you believe this? Do you believe that sin is terrible, that its a cage, that it is perishing? And above all do you believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid for your release, your freedom from Satan’s trap, with His own life, on the cross at Calvary? The door is open, and anyone, whom Satan has deceived and caged, can be set free. Jesus Christ did rise from the death, and He is alive today with the power to inject in us His victory.
Mere church talk? No, this is just as practical as the AIDS brochure we all get in the mail. And it is a thousand times more urgent and more important because sin is an infinitely more dangerous disease than AIDS. And if the world is willing to spend millions and millions of dollars to wake this country up to its danger of AIDS, how much more should we, who know the cure, spend whatever it costs to wake this city up to the danger of sin! And to the possibility of its cure!
Believe in the mission!
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.