Many people don’t like Mondays. I do, because it’s my day off. But in February I got scared of them. On my return from a long walk in the wilderness on a Monday I found out that the Pope had resigned; two weeks later on a Monday I found out that the Cardinal had resigned. So, instead of fulfilling my duties, I spent hours on my CV to make it appealing and attractive to the College of Cardinals; or, if that bid is unsuccessful, to a new Pope. Anyway, both resignations came out of the blue, and in the whole universe there was only a handful of people not surprised by the news.
Both events were unexpected and surprising, but comprehensive. For the nineteen people killed in the balloon disaster, and for their families, that event turned out to be shockingly tragic. For our Scottish compatriot the journey of life claimed her life in an unexpected turn. The victims’ families have to come to terms with their sudden losses. The most frequent question raised in such situations is a simple: ‘why?’
In today’s gospel Jesus has to face the identical question, when ‘some people arrived and told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices.’ Those people come to Jesus to find a satisfying answer to help them to comprehend such shockingly incomprehensible cruelty by the Roman soldiers. Nothing has changed for centuries: we need to find how to make sense of seemingly senseless, tragic events. This is the way our minds work: we must comprehend events in order to come to terms with them and their consequences.
One way of dealing with unpleasant or tragic events is to find a connection between a victim and his or her tragic fate. Sometimes it’s simple: someone was irresponsibly speeding and hit a tree. But it’s far more difficult when an innocent individual is hit and killed by a speeding driver. Quite a ‘popular’ explanation is that it is God’s punishment for the victim’s previously committed sins. We remember that massively unfortunate guy in the Bible called Job who lost literally everything. His friends tried to convince him that his disaster had been caused by his sins, which he fiercely denied. In today’s gospel Jesus similarly rejects such an assumption: ‘Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you.’
Today’s first reading shows us the moment when Moses was called by God and given a mission to Egypt. The only reason for God to act is his compassion: ‘I’m aware of their sufferings. I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up to a land rich and broad.’ God’s only driving force is compassionate love, not fierce anger. God presents his ideas for a happy, fulfilling and peaceful life – but the choice is ours. God respects our free will to the point where we can totally reject both him and his offer. Rejected, he will not intervene in our lives because of our freedom; if he were to do that, it would disrespect that freedom. But, even when rejected, God silently stays close by, ready to accept your invitation. Your repentance is in fact a recognition that your plan for life has failed, and that you’re ready to give God’s one a go. Your invitation is not driven by fear of punishment, but by the desire to find a better life.