28th February – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

On a personal note Dad has been in Bantry regional hospital for the last 5 days with a severe chest infection and attendant complications. Please keep him in your prayers. If I’ve been late in responding to communications it is because I’ve been visiting him on a daily basis. A general tiredness and slowness doesnt help either.

Today’s Gospel is Lk 13:1-9. It was just about this time that some people arrived and told Jesus

Jesus Curses the Fig Tree

about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’

Pontius Pilate has gone down in history as the weak, spineless and cowardly procurator of the province of Judea who was caught up in the Passion of the Christ, and both literally and symbolically washed his hands of Christ. Since the Creed was formulated many centuries ago his name has been repeated by billions of people throughout history at every celebration of the Sunday Mass and recitation of the Rosary. His is a truly infamous name – alongside that of Judas Iscariot.

It will come as no surprise then that, as the police say of criminals, Pilate had form. He was notorious for his harsh rule and his insensitivity to Jewish religious feelings. In our Gospel today we hear from Luke about an example of this brutality, which without his reporting would have been lost to history.

It appears he had gratuitously killed some Jewish Galileans while they were offering sacrifices, probably in the temple and during Passover. Quite why he had them killed we don’t know. Like any of the meaningless, pointless, senseless murders we hear of every day in our newspapers and on our TV screens, the killing of these poor men

reverberated around the nation and deeply shocked people. The only question a human being can ask in the face of such brutality is ‘Why?’ And the truth is, that there isn’t an answer.

Jesus refers also to a construction accident. Scripture scholars suggest that this particular incident occurred at the Siloam Reservoir in Jerusalem. Popular wisdom at that time associated disaster and tragedy like this with some kind of punishment for sin (Job 4:7-9; John 9:2). Jesus refutes and demolishes this assumption for all time both here and also in the Sermon on the Mount: he tells us that God’s sun shines on both the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45).

The unfortunate people who died in these tragedies weren’t any guiltier than anybody else. We are all guilty – we are all sinners in need of a saviour! Unpopular as this message is, an essential part of Jesus’ message is our need to repent, turn away from sin and turn our lives over to God. The first words that Jesus speaks in the Gospel of Mark (1:15) is “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Lord Jesus, teach me that today is always the day of repentance, today is always the day of conversion, today is always the day of salvation. (Bible Alive)

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