Third Sunday of Lent-C

How can God Exist if there is So Much Suffering and Pain?

The question of evil has perplexed humanity from the beginning of time.  Questions have been asked, “How can there be a loving God when there is so much pain, so much suffering?”  Similar but connected questions are, “Did a bad thing happen to a person because of something he/she had done?”  “How could God allow the physical evils to happen like tornados and hurricanes which hurt so many people?”

The Difference Between Physical and Personal Evil

In today’s Gospel, Christ makes it clear that there is no easy answer to evil, no stock response to satisfy and justify all the pain and suffering. Do you think that these Galileans were the greatest sinners in Galilee just because they suffered this?  Or, take those eighteen who were killed by a falling tower in Siloam.  Do you think they were more guilty than anyone else who lived in Jerusalem?  Certainly not!”

Jesus tells us that God does not inflict punishment on people because they may have personally sinned.  Generally speaking, he breaks apart the old notion of personal sin always being the cause of a person’s pain and suffering.  Simply, evil exists in a fallen world along with personal sin because it is an absence of good whether that be physical calamities or personal consequences.

Jesus explains the physical evils which happen are not always the fault of the personal conduct and they shouldn’t view as such. Personal sin however, has caused a lot of pain and suffering and now he addresses that form of evil caused specifically by evil deeds.

  “But I tell you, you will all come to the same end unless you begin to reform?”  Simply, he says, beware. Certainly, we do bring suffering on ourselves, and one person’s sin does causes distress to others, no matter how insignificant the sin may seem.  By reforming, a person chooses to work with good instead of against it. The parable of the fig tree is now used to show how a person can reform.

God’s Redemption Plan Includes Infinite Justice, Mercy and Grace

The parable of the fig tree is used to illustrate God’s redemptive plan.  Fig trees, like all producing trees, are supposed to yield fruit, and when they do not, they do not fulfill what they were created to do.  A fruitless tree  will still soak up resources;  the sun, soil, water and human labor. 

Rather than feeding a hungry world, the tree exists in a form which defies its very nature.  No wonder the gardener wanted it cut down, his labor seemed to be in vain.  The “eternal” gardener however, will never let that happen without first painstakingly working with the tree, hoping that it will come back and produce the fruit it was intended to yield.  The patience of God is an unfathomable mercy.

What Happened to the Fig Tree?

Now what did you think happened to the fig tree?  After gentle care do you think the fig tree became fruitful again?  Or was the tree cut down to make room for other trees that had a better chance of bearing fruit?

I like to think that the barren tree did become fruitful, and it became the tree of life again for the sake of those who would benefit from its sweet fruit.  

The reason I believe is that although evil is in our world, the gentle hand of God who never gives up, always gives everyone a chance beyond what they deserve, to produce rich fruit.

The end of the parable now is for you to finish.  What will you do with the rest of your life?  How will you use the blessings God has given you for fruit-bearing and world feeding?  Will you notice the care given to you by the eternal gardener, or would you rather wish to be cut down?  Let us remind ourselves of this: We have all been spared by a merciful God, and even still he bestows his constant mercy and forgiveness.  

People of God’s orchard, you have been given a reprieve along with tender and loving care.  Now is the time to be what you were created to be, instead of being cut down and thrown to the fire. 

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