A Chance to Change
3rd Sunday of Lent

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

“You will all come to the same end unless you reform” (Lk. 13:4). This is the repeated warning in today’s gospel. This warning of Jesus was occasioned by two tragedies that became the talk of the province: Pilate’s ordering the massacre of some Galileans (suspected rebels) while they were offering sacrifice in the temple and the construction accident that happened in Siloam where eighteen people were killed. Why did these people suffer this fate? Were they great sinners? Did they really deserve their fate? No doubt there were speculations and discussions, with some saying that the rebels had it coming to them and others defending them. What was more difficult to understand were the deaths of those who were victims of a falling tower.

The attempt to find some reason or explanation for tragedies was the theme of Thornton Wilder’s novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Could we find out the divine logic why such and such persons were destined to be on the bridge when it fell? To give it a more contemporary twist, could there be a divine explanation why this person was in the place when a terrorist bomb exploded, or when a tsunami struck? Was it accidental or providential? Was it mere chance or was it destiny? Was it what Filipinos call “gaba” or divine wrath and what others refer to as “karma”?

Action starter: One grace we can ask for during this season of Lent is the gift to admit that we are sinners and are in need of repentance.

Jesus’ own rejoinder to such speculations was that by no means should the victims of the calamities be considered as more sinful than others. Nor should we speculate about God’s reasons behind such incidents. However, there is something certain, God gives us so many chances to reform our lives. In fact God’s patience is over-extended for many of us sinners. God’s mercy is boundless. Like the fig tree that was not cut down even if it did not bear fruit, the sinner is given another chance. It was pointless to discuss the ways of Divine Providence. One thing is certain, God gives us chances to reform our lives, more than we deserve.

The season of Lent is a special time of grace. It is a time when we can lay our claim to God’s mercy. From God’s side there is always the readiness to forgive and to be merciful. Lent is for us. From our side, human and forgetful that we are, we need timely reminders of God’s everlasting goodness.

We also have to reclaim our sense of sin. Sometimes we lose our sense of sin together with the loss of our childhood concepts of sin. As we grow more mature, our sense of sin should also develop. Our knowledge and capacity to make judgments grow. Our freedom and voluntariness in acting also expand. Depending on how we deal with day to day moral decisions, we develop sensitivity or in some instances, laxity of conscience.

Only those with a sense of sin also see the need to reform their lives. If people are not motivated to change their lives, it could be because they do not see themselves as sinners. As one parishioner said to me, “I can’t think of having committed any sin. I have not killed anyone or robbed anybody.” The other extreme can also happen as this story one confession showed. The penitent began his confession, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. I disobeyed my parents. That’s all.” The priest asked, “How old are you?” The answer came back, “I am seventy years old, Father.”

We have to develop a sense of sin that has outgrown that of our childhood. We need to mature in our understanding of sin. Sin is a reality that we cannot deny. Together with the realization of our sinfulness may we also realize God’s mercy and forgiveness.