“Every day, unfortunately, bad news is reported: murders, accidents, disasters, … In today’s Gospel passage Jesus refers to two tragic events, which at the time caused quite a stir: the bloody crackdown by Roman soldiers inside the temple and the collapse of the tower of Siloam in Jerusalem, which claimed eighteen victims.” These are the words that Pope Francis started with Monday afternoon before the Angelus, relating our current lived experience to the Gospel of the day. “Jesus knows the superstitious mentality of his listeners,” he continued, “and knows that they interpret those kinds of events wrongly. In fact, they think that, if those persons died so cruelly, it’s a sign that God has punished them for some grave offence they had committed, as if to say ‘They deserved it.’ And the fact that they had been spared from the disaster was equivalent to being ‘okay’. They ‘deserved it’ but I ‘am good’.
The Pope explained that “Jesus clearly rejects this view because God does not allow tragedies in order to punish sins. He affirms that those poor victims were not worse than others. Rather, he invites us to draw a warning from such painful events, a warning for all because we are all sinners. He said to those who are asking him: ‘If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!’ Even today, in the face of certain misfortunes and tragic events, we might feel the temptation to ‘dump’ the responsibility onto the victims or even onto God himself. But the Gospel invites us to reflect: what is our idea of God? Are we convinced that God is this way or is it not just our own projection, a god made ‘in our image and likeness’? In contrast, Jesus calls us to a change of heart, to make a radical change in our life’s path, abandoning the pacts with evil – and we all do this, make pacts with evil, hypocrisy, I believe that we all have at least one piece of hypocrisy – to decisively take the Gospel path”.
“But here again is the temptation to justify ourselves: ‘What should we convert from? Aren’t we all basically good people?’ How many times have we thought that: ‘All in all, I’m a pretty good person?’ – haven’t we? – ‘Aren’t we believers, who even practice enough?’ And we think, therefore, that we are justified”. The Pope stressed that we justify ourselves as believers and even practicing ones. Unfortunately, each of us looks a lot like a tree that, for years, has given much evidence of sterility. But luckily for us, Jesus is like the peasant farmer who, with limitless patience, still gives another deferment to the barren fig tree. ‘Leave it for this year,’ he says to the master. ‘It may bear fruit in the future'”.
“A ‘year’ of grace”, he continued, “the time of Christ’s ministry, the time of the Church before his glorious return, the time of our life punctuated by a number of Lents, which are offered to us as opportunities for repentance and salvation, the time of a Jubilee Year of Mercy. Jesus’ invincible patience. Have you thought on God’s patience? Have you thought about his unyielding concern for sinners as they should provoke impatience in how we see ourselves! It is never to late for us to convert, never! God’s patience waits for us up till the last minute. Remember the story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus when she prayed for the man condemned to death, a criminal, who did not want to receive the comfort of the Church. He declined a priest’s visit, didn’t want it. He wanted to die that way. And she prayed, in the convent. And exactly at the moment of his execution he turned to the priest, took the crucifix and kissed it. God’s patience! He does the same with us, with all of us! How many times – we don’t know. We will know in Heaven – how many times we are there [about to fall] and the Lord saves us. He saves us because he has great patience with us. And this is his mercy. It is never too late to repent but it is urgent, the time is now. Let us begin today”.
Before finishing, Pope Francis called upon the Virgin Mary “to sustain us so that we may open our hearts to God’s grace, to his mercy. And help us to never judge others but to let daily misfortunes be the opportunity to make a serious examination of conscience and repent”.