“Why Did This Happen?”
3rd Sunday of Lent
March 20, 2022
Haven’t we all at times wanted to ask God, “Why did this happen?” This is precisely what Jesus is asked in this Sunday’s gospel (Luke 13:1-9). “Why did all those people die when the tower in Siloam collapsed? Why were those Jews put to death by Pilate? Were their sins greater than others? Did they somehow ‘deserve’ what happened to them?” Often enough, we have similar questions for God. One has only to read the daily papers. Take Ukraine for example, or Covid to see some perceived injustice done, and we want to know why? Did they deserve it? Or, “Why did this happen to me? Did I somehow deserve this?”
Though often our questions like this are relatively trivial compared to others, whether large or small, we want to know why. And after death we will have it all explained to us, but in the meantime the Lord’s answer is, “Trust me on this to make it good for you in the end, no matter how it looks now.” In fact, we find that Jesus gives just such a partial answer to questions like this in our gospel today by, as usual, answering a question with a question.
The Jews of Jesus’ time felt that there must have been a direct connection between the sins of these people (or their families) and these violent deaths, but Jesus doesn’t draw this connection directly. It is true, of course, that many sins we commit do have grave consequences that we have no trouble recognizing. For example, if someone commits adultery, they should not be surprised if their marriage dissolves. If one is impaired by alcohol or drugs and gets behind the wheel of a car, they should not be surprised if a tragic accident follows. A person who steals from their employer ‘deserves’ to be fired.
Jesus’ answer here is very instructive: he points out that just because all these people died when a tower fell, doesn’t mean they were bigger sinners than anyone else. Instead, when we are confronted by such tragedies, the proper way of looking at it, according to Jesus, is to realize that this could have been me. This could have happened to me. I need to repent because it may be later than I think!
Sometimes we need to remember that heaven is the time when every question will be answered. Jesus himself said of heaven, “On that day, you will have no more questions to ask me” (John 16:23). So either we will know everything then, or it won’t matter anymore. But here on earth, Jesus continually directs the focus of our lives on the one thing that really does matter: saving our souls by keeping our faith in Jesus. This means loving God and watching very carefully how we treat our neighbor.
Sometimes we can come to understand why things happen in the world we live in, and sometimes we must wait for the answers, but when the focus of our lives is on pleasing God and keeping his commandments, we will always find the right answers in the end.