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, 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 is what is called the traditional thesis of retribution. The entire Old Testament Book of Job was written 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 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? Jesus 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), Jesus 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. Then he tells the story of the barren fig tree, thereby revealing the intention of God for all – 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 could meet 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 charity 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 bible relates, just like a sown seed does not germinate and produce fruit unless it first dies, 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 around and about you. May the revelation of God’s mercy find you as you carry your cross every day. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.