Sunday, March 7, 2010

On tragedies and repentance

The readings could not have come in more appropriate timing than today considering the series of earthquakes of catastrophic magnitude that are felt all over the world. The Lord Jesus himself spoke of 18 persons who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them. Such catastrophes confront us with the issues of crime and punishment, human evil and divine wrath. Did they perish because they were evil? Does this mean that survivors like ourselves are more righteous than they were? Or were we simply luckier?

Scriptures were not lacking in speaking of tragedies as acts of Divine wrath on account of the magnitude of sin. The floods of Noah’s time, the burning of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt are only a few amongst many others that can be mentioned as examples of Divine wrath against the magnitude of human sin. In the 2nd reading, St. Paul warns the Corinthians: “God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. These things happened as examples for us so that we might not desire evil things as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us upon whom the end of the ages has come.” What the Apostle said is affirmed by the words of the Lord in the gospel. Our Lord warns us that we should not be made complacent by our survival in tragedies for we should always take these tragedies for what they really are. They are warnings and calls to conversion coming from the Lord. We do not survive catastrophes because we are better and more righteous than those who perished. Rather, we are given more time to repent. Jesus said, “Do you think that they were more guilty than anyone else in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

The mystery of sin and its destructive nature can only be clarified in the light of the mystery of our religion. The Catechism says: “To try to understand what sin is, one must first recognize the profound relationship of man to God, for only in this relationship is the evil of sin unmasked in its true identity as humanity’s rejection of God and opposition to him, even as it continues to weigh heavy on human life and history” (CCC, 386). “Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God, we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a developmental flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure…Only in the knowledge of God’s plan can we grasp that sin is an abuse of the freedom that God gives to created persons so that they are capable of loving Him and loving one another” (CCC, 387). It is when we recognize sin as our rebellion against God that we immediately understand the relationship of tragedies to sin. For God is the source of all goodness, of all life, and of all blessings. When we reject Him, we face nothing but evil, death, and woe. “The Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination toward evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam’s sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin…which is the ‘death of the soul’” (CCC, 403). It is precisely from this death-giving sin that God wishes to redeem us. In the story of the Burning Bush, God said to Moses, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people and have heard their cry of complaint…so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore, I have come down to rescue them…” “The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace” (CCC, 385). Yes, “Scripture witnesses to the disastrous influence of the one Jesus calls ‘a murderer from the beginning’” (CCC, 394) but we must never forget the power of Christ. “Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God…and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual and, indirectly, even of a physical nature – to each man and to society, the action is permitted by Divine Providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that Providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘we know that God works for good with those who love him.’” (CCC, 395). As what was done to the fig tree, which did not only receive a reprieve from sure death but was even assisted by the farmer who hoed around it and manured it, God also deals with us. He does not only give us a chance to repent. His call for our repentance is always coupled with grace. He gives us grace to rise from our fall. He leads us back to Christ so that in him, we may find fullness of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment