Luke 13: 1-9
1 At the same time that Jesus warned the crowd to interpret the present time well, people told him the fate of Galileans, whom Pilate had shed blood in the same was as the people they had slaughtered. 2 Jesus answered them with these words, "Do you think that these Galileans were greater sinners than all the other Galileans for having suffered so? Absolutely not! But I insist, if you do not accept to be transformed by life, you will all die the same way. 4 Or these eighteen people on whom the tower of Siloam collapsed and killed all, do you think they had a debt to pay greater than all the inhabitants of Jerusalem? 5 Absolutely not! But I insist, if you do not accept to be transformed by life, you will all die the same way."
6 He told them this story inspired by life. "Someone had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and went there to seek fruit, and found none. 7 And he said to the wine-grower, 'I have been coming for fruit in this fig tree for three years, and I can not find any, so cut it off'. Why does it needlessly occupy the ground?" 8 The wine-grower answered him, "Mister, let him this year again, the time that I dig around and put dung, 9 if it should produce fruit in the future, or you will cut it.'"
Aging and always marvel
Gospel commentary - Homily
You probably know someone like that. She is a woman who has had several children. The children went to school, were educated, and came back with ideas different from hers. Yet had she not tried to communicate what was important to her? Then, one by one, the children left the house to travel the vast world and create their own universe. This now remote relationship was not what she had dreamed of, but at least the relationship was not cut. Her spouse stayed with her for a long time, but he died before her. The house was now very big without him, and the meal time much less interesting. Then her strength diminished. She was no longer able to clean the house as before. And her legs started to let her down. She was not unable to walk to church as she was used to. What she was aware of was that she had been experiencing for several years a multitude of bereavements. Is it what living is all about, is this aging? Is not it a little sad?
The gospel of this day, at first sight, does not seem more pleasing. Two sad events from the time of Jesus are reported: a political uprising of Galilean nationalists that the Roman Pilate bloodily represses, and the disaster of a stone tower in Jerusalem crumbling and killing 18 people in its fall. When such events are reported in the morning paper, we can react in various ways. Of course it's sad. But if we ask the question: why did it happen? Then we come with our various interpretations. We can say: the nationalists of Galilee deserved their fate, they had only to remain quiet. People who found themselves near the fragile tower may have been reckless unless they did not deserve to live longer. But on his side, how does Jesus react to these two events? Let's not think that these people were worse than us and deserved their fate, he says. Above all, let us avoid thinking that these events concern others, not us. Jesus invites us to identify ourselves with the event and to say: let's stop thinking that we have eternity before us, let's take the decision today to enter life to the core, as if it were our last day which we had to live. Let's try to be clearer.
Jesus sends an invitation that is usually translated by this: "I tell you, but if you do not convert, you will all perish". Other translations will speak of "repentance". We try here to translate the Greek verb metanoein. Literally, it means: change your mind. But to what change does the gospel refer exactly? What must we change in ourselves? If we consider ourselves Christians, are there still things to change? What exactly? To understand the issue that Jesus is referring to here, I prefer to translate metanoein like this: to accept being transformed by life, which is in fact a way of changing one's idea according to life. A police intervention that ends in blood, a building that collapses on people are probably exceptional events, but they are a case among the millions of events that shape our lives. The only truly human attitude Jesus expects is to let these events shape us, chisel our faces, in short, transform us. To enter life is to open our eyes and our heart to all these events of life, to let them talk to us and educate us. To refuse them, to let them pass like water on the back of a duck, is to refuse to live, it is letting death have the best of us.
The great difficulty of life is to live the present. When you're young, you can not wait to be tall, to be 16 years old for your driver's license, to have a job and a career, to start a family: life is in the future. When one is old, one is nostalgic of the beautiful periods in family, of some Christmas with the children, of sweet moments with his spouse, of extraordinary trips: life is in the past. To let oneself be transformed by life, to enter into life, is to say: life is in the present, it is unfolding now, it is perpetual movement. Because to live is to grow constantly from what we live every day. This is what the parable of the fig tree that ends the gospel of this day means: the tree should have already borne fruit, but there is still time, because it is alive ... for now.
No matter how old we are, we all have one thing in common: the present. This is our decision to accept or reject it. We all live small and big events: we can take shelter or let them transform us, just as we take the time to feel the cold weather of winter biting our faces. Aging is probably experiencing multiple bereavements, but it is also eliminating all that made us flee the present, is to learn to taste the essential, to enter into the depth of what remains, life. What Jesus asks, he lived it. That's why he is for us The Living.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, December 2009