One was a terrible act of non-sensical violence: Pilate had unscrupulously massacred a number of Galileans. The other was an accident which left a number of people dead. When these things happen, people start asking questions, demanding answers. Dealing with pain is never easy! Why and how? Whose fault is it? And, if no answer is to be found, one is conveniently made up. Very often this takes the form of blame and finger-pointing.
It was not uncommon for the people of Jesus’ time to conclude that, when someone becomes a victim of some incident, that person must have been guilty of something. Divine punishment can take many forms!
Jesus takes issue with this line of thought. If Pilate did that horrible act of violence, he is the one who has done wrong, not his victims. And if a tower (probably part of an aqueduct construction) collapsed, it could have possibly been due to human error in the construction, or perhaps merely an accident. But, certainly, one cannot blame the victims!
Jesus departs from these contemporary pieces of news to drive home a message. We are all in the same boat. We cannot group the world in two groups: “they” who are bad, and “us” who are good. We are all on a journey – a journey of constant conversion. If we’re not careful, Jesus tells us, we will “all perish”. In his typical matter-of fact manner, St Paul tells us “if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall”. Nobody is to be scandalized of another’s failure. No one is immune from falling.
Lent is a very apt reminder of all this. It is a journey that leads us to the celebration of Easter. Easter itself is a memorial of a journey: the journey of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the promised land. The Passover of the people of Israel which, in the person of Jesus, took a much deeper meaning.
As Christians, we are invited to participate in this journey of Jesus. Last Sunday we saw Moses and Elijah on the mountain talking with Jesus about his “Exodus”. It is, indeed, and exodus – a moving out from the darkness of sin and evil to the light of freedom and new life. In Jesus, everything takes on a new meaning.
In the Old Testament, it all started with the calling of Moses. God saw the people’s misery: God heard his people’s cry; God knew their sufferings. God is not indifferent. And throughout the whole story of the people’s exodus, God proved to always be present, even when the people thought he was absent. Our God is a God who is always present: “I AM” is his name. He is the God of the people’s ancestors: of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. History has shown that he has always been with his people. There is no reason why he should fail them now.
As we move on in our own journey, God may show us that we, too, have our own areas of darkness, our little masters that enslave us. With the help of prayer, and strengthened by the practices of fasting and almsgiving, lent is the ideal time when we can experience our own exodus. With God’s help, we too can experience the movement towards a freer, happier, more fulfilled life.