WHERE ARE WE?
Some unknown people communicate to Jesus the news about the horrible slaughter of some Galileans in the holy precincts of the Temple. The perpetrator has been Pilate once again. What’s most horrifying is that those men’s blood has been mixed with the blood of the animals that were being offered to God.
We don’t know why they approach Jesus. Do they want him to express solidarity with the victims? Do they want him to explain what horrible sin they could have committed to merit such a shameful death? And if they haven’t sinned, why has God permitted such a sacrilegious death in God’s own temple?
Jesus responds by remembering another dramatic event that took place in Jerusalem: the death of eighteen people crushed by the fall of a tower in the wall near the pool of Siloam. Now then, Jesus makes the same affirmation about both events: the victims weren’t any more sinners than anyone else. And he finishes his intervention with the same warning: «Unless you repent you will all perish as they did».
Jesus’ answer makes us stop and think. More than anything, he rejects the traditional belief that misfortunes are God’s punishment. Jesus doesn’t think in terms of a «judicial» God who goes about punishing God’s sons and daughters, meting out here and there sickness, accidents, misfortunes, as a response to their sins.
Later on, he changes the perspective of the question. He doesn’t settle on theoretical elaborations about the ultimate cause of the misfortunes, talking about the victims’ guilt or God’s will. He turns their attention toward those who are around them and he confronts them with their own selves: they must hear in these happenings God’s call to conversion and to a change of life.
We still find ourselves stunned by the tragic earthquake in Haiti. How to read this tragedy from Jesus’ attitude? Certainly what’s most important isn’t asking ourselves where God is, but where are we? The question that can help us move forward toward conversion isn’t «why does God permit this horrible misfortune», but «how is it that we allow so many human beings to live in misery, so defenseless in the face of nature’s power».
We won’t find our crucified God by settling accounts with a faraway divinity, but by identifying ourselves with the victims. We won’t find such a God by protesting God’s indifference or negating his existence, but by working together in hundreds of ways to mitigate the suffering in Haiti and in the whole world. Then, maybe, we will sense among the lights and the shadows that God is in the victims, defending God’s eternal dignity, and in those who fight against evil, encouraging God’s battle.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf