3rd Sunday of Lent
March 18, 2001
First Reading: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-4, 6-8, 11
Second Reading: 1st Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
When the celebrated televangelist Jim Baker was discovered to have had an affair with a church secretary, many people seized the moment and condemned him. Most notable, was fellow televangelist Jimmy Swaggart who denounced Baker at every opportunity. It was disturbing to learn later that at the very time Swaggart was condemning Baker, he was doing the same thing himself, only with prostitutes. Independent of his own culpability, it puzzles me as to why these televangelists are so free, even eager, to condemn. Is that really the Gospel message of Jesus?
I have always wondered what makes one person's sin any worse than another's. Given the same circumstances might we not do the very thing we find so offensive in another? This seems to have been a pervasive problem for the people of Jesus' time. They thought that every evil, which befell someone, was the result of sin. And the worse the evil the worse the sin that caused it.
Jesus challenges that idea in today's gospel. He clearly demands repentance, but within the context of compassion. Even though catastrophes have taken place in Galilee and Siloam, the victims are no more guilty or sinful than others. Nonetheless, their unexpected deaths should serve as a warning to repent and be ready for judgment. In the same way, what happened to the Israelites in the desert provides not an occasion for gloating or condemnation, but serves as a warning.
No one is without sin or failing, and each of us stumbles along the way. Jesus assures us of the compassion and patience of God. He comforts us with the assurance that God will care for us and provide the opportunities for growth. At the same time he reminds us that we must work, and work quickly, toward a more faithful Christian life, for we will be called to give an account of ourselves and of our time.
It seems counter-productive and un-Gospel to sit in judgment on others. The arrogance with which we so soundly judge one another may prove our ultimate undoing. Perhaps it is time, for us and for all Christians, to cease our self-righteous condemnations. Perhaps it is time, for us and for all Christians, to extend a hand of compassion so that together we might build a kingdom of harmony and justice.