From the pastor’s desk
Third Sunday of Lent -Year C– There are no direct correlations between suffering and sin.
When we look around us today, there are so many problems such as wars, terrorism, plane crashes, motor accidents, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, etc. Some of them are man-made, some of them are natural and so on and so forth. Addressing these problems, which constitute challenges to humans, is not easy. For a long time, some have associated these trials of life, the problems of evil in our society, the problems of human tragedy and sufferings with sin.
Today offers us the opportunity to rethink and approach these problems differently. Only God knows best. The People of God found themselves oppressed, maltreated, and enslaved under forced labor in Egypt: their numbers were being reduced; in their plight, the God of their ancestors was concerned about their conditions. To free them from their harsh conditions, God revealed himself to Moses in the land of Median. This encounter between God and Moses took place at the foot of Mount Horeb also known as Mount Sinai. God prepared Moses for his future task of leading the Israelites through the desert by serving as a nomad, shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro at Horeb. It was here that God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush, as well as his program to liberate the Israelites from Egypt. The bush was on fire but was not consumed.
We should ask ourselves: what were Israel’s sins that made them to be maltreated, oppressed, persecuted and reduced to sub-humans in Egypt? The answer will be that there was none. It was one of those human tragedies in which some humans see others as threats and want to destroy them out of envy and jealousy.
Today, Jesus tells us that it is fruitless to draw direct correlations between suffering and sin. All are sinners in need of repentance. God visits those who suffer, just as he did not neglect his sufferingpeople in Egypt. He revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush in order to free his people from their enslavement. God is always mindful of his people. Just as God revealed himself in that bush which was on fire without being consumed, so does he reveal himself to us now in his Son, Jesus Christ, through the Perpetual Virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, described by the Fathers of the Church as that bush, which was on fire but was never consumed in the flames. God continues to reveal himself to the chosen ones through her virginity before, during and after her child-birth of the Son of God, Jesus Christ who tells us today that unless we reform our lives and repent, we will all face unfavorable ends.
The death of the Son of God on the Cross of Calvary which was innocent, vicarious and redemptive is the final answer which gives the final blow to the misconception that anyone who suffers must have sinned.
The Cross is at the centrality of Christian faith. It is at the core of our beliefs. Without the Cross, there is no exaltation and glorification. Without Good Friday, there is no Easter Sunday. Every baptized Christian called to be a disciple of Christ like a fig tree must bear fruits of the Kingdom, so as not to be cut down like an unfruitful fig. St. Paul warns the Corinthian Christians and us against complacency and pride.
We could make the same mistakes of the Old Testament people of God. We should keep in mind that
God’s favors do not work automatically. We should not make presumptions that we have believed in Christ or have been baptized or we have received the Holy Spirit or we have received the Eucharist or we must have led a consistent life, otherwise, we too can go astray like the children of Israel in the desert.
That is why St. Paul says: “let anyone who thinks he is standing upright watch out lest he falls !
Rev. Fr. Michael Onyekwere, SDV, PhD