In this Sunday’s Gospel, men come to Jesus and tell him of a massacre of Galileans by Pilate. They interpret the men’s fate as the consequence of their sin, considering themselves in the clear by comparison. No, Jesus answers, it is not that these men were worse sinners, but if you yourselves do not repent “you will all perish as they did.” What Jesus asks his hearers to draw from the events they have recounted to Him is simply this: the call to conversion. A call personal and for each one of us truly urgent.
Urgent because none of us know how little time is allotted to us. One day, we will have to put aside all our compromises with the darkness, and come entirely into the light. If our faith and love of God were stronger the thought that He sees us right now as we truly are would be enough to move us to conversion, but in truth we are more ashamed when we are caught in a sin than in committing it: we fear the judgment of men more than the judgment of God. But the judgment of which Scripture speaks implies not only God but men too. (cf. Matt 19:28, 1 Cor 6:2-3) Jesus speaks of a day in which everything secret will be proclaimed from the rooftops. (Luke 12:2-3) Why? Because the love of Heaven for which our hearts were made necessitates a complete openness – that nakedness without shame we had before Him and before one another in Paradise. “Then will I know,” says St Paul, “even as I am known.” (1 Cor 13:12) When that day comes will we let all of ourselves be seen? That will depend on how much we have opened ourselves to God’s light in this life. This is the repentance that Jesus talks of, without which the passage to truth which death represents may find us as unprepared as the Galileans appeared to be to His hearers before their own sudden passing. “If you do not repent you will all perish as they did.”
Thankfully God is always more at work than us in our salvation. The parable that Jesus goes on to tell gives us a glimpse of the other side of the story: we see the providential care of God, the merciful forbearance for souls that have never borne fruit, and the personal investment He makes for each one of us in order that we will: an investment we know that went as far as the Cross. And yet this too ends with an “If”: If the tree still does not bear fruit… God cannot save us against our wills, and to the end we remain free. There is the drama but also the worth of our lives. Let us use this Lent, and in particular the sacrament of Reconciliation, to come back to the light and let it change us, while we still have time.