Grace to you!
When evil befalls people, is it because of their sins or for some other reasons?
Among the Jews of the biblical times, as was with many of the ancient worlds, there was a gradual development of the idea that when evil happens to a person, it is because the person was guilty of one sin or another. This view was shared by many. This is what is called the traditional thesis of retribution. The entire Old Testament Book of Job was written, in part, to debunk this erroneous belief. Many still hold it today.
People often have the mental frame that those beset with unfortunate misfortune must have done something wrong to deserve it. We see this belief in our communities and our families. It’s a form of an-eye-for-an-eye belief wrongfully attributed to God’s Justice.
The disciples of the Lord Jesus were not free from this temptation. Did you not read in John 9:2-3, where they were quick to judge that the blind man must have become blind due to his or his parents’ sins? The Lord refuted their error, teaching that the man’s condition is for God’s work to be made manifest.
In another situation (as recorded in Luke 13: 1-9), the Lord refuted the quick-to-judge mentality concerning a horrific massacre of some Galileans by Pilate, telling the people it wasn’t because the murdered were the worse sinners. Instead, a call for repentance for all is divine expectation in cases of this kind. Then he tells the story of the barren fig tree, thereby revealing the intention of God for all—bearing the fruits of repentance.
Get this: Suffering is revelatory. When people suffer or when calamities befall us, it isn’t necessarily because of our sins—though no one merits the righteousness of God. As St Josemaría Escrivá said, “When you meet with suffering, the cross, your thought should be: what is this compared with what I deserve?” (The Way, 690). We are sinners and if the strict justice of God were to meet us, no one can be saved.
Suffering is revelatory in at least two ways. It reveals the unimaginable mercy of God who patiently waits for the sinner to repent. When people ask, “why does it seem bad guys do well and the righteous suffer a lot?”, it could be God is giving bad guys a very long rope so they can repent. As we read from the prophesy of Ezekiel 18:23, God doesn’t take pleasure in the death of a sinner; rather God wants the sinner to repent and live.
Suffering is also revelatory of God’s justice, the justice of mercy, “the justice of love” (Pope Benedict XVI, 2011, n. 25) and purification. When we suffer, we become partakers in the sufferings of Christ and the fruits of our suffering align with the fruits of righteousness. As the Lord relates, just like a sown seed does not germinate and produce fruit unless it first dies (Jn 12:24), so are we. Through suffering, we actually become a productive vine.
I pray for you today, that you will see the face of God upon the faces of suffering that come your way. May the revelation of God’s mercy, grace and strength find you as you carry your cross every day. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Saturday Week 29: Rm 8:1-11; Lk 13:1-9]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.