“Did you hear what happened?” So begins many of our conversations when some tragedy has occurred, like another shooting at a school or more terrorism attacks by ISIS. In the beginning of today’s gospel, people say to Jesus, “Did you hear what happened about how Pilate killed Galileans while they were offering sacrifice in the temple?” And Jesus himself chimes in, “Did you hear what happened when a tower fell on 18 people in Siloam & killed them?” But Jesus makes it clear that these bad things happened by chance & not because God was punishing them for sin. “Do you think they were worse sinners than everyone else?”
Sometimes bad things happen by chance. At other times, they happen by choice, by OUR choice. But what is worse than the physical death of people by chance, Jesus says, is the spiritual death of people by choice. “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” If we live in destructive, sinful ways, bad things will happen to us not because of God, but because of our own choices.
But there is good news too! Jesus tells a parable where God is the gardener. He says to the owner of the garden who wants to cut down the unfruitful fig tree, “Give this fig tree more time & I will do my best to take care of it.” God is patient. “God’s patience is directed toward our salvation” says St. Paul. God will wait for us to turn things around if we work with his grace. God uses his patience for us to change our hearts.