“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3). Slavery can be described as an act of man’s inhumanity to man. To be enslaved is to be reduced to the level of an object lacking the rights and privileges proper to every human being. To be enslaved is to be oppressed and afflicted. God Himself felt for the people of Israel who were slaves to the Egyptians when he said: “I have seen the AFFLICTION of my people and have heard their CRY. I know their SUFFERINGS” (Exodus 3:7). Our lessons today are simple and straightforward.
One: Sin is Slavery.
As much as we detest slavery, St. Paul teaches us today that sin by its very nature can be likened to a form of slavery. Just as the Israelites were afflicted and agonized by the Egyptian taskmasters, we are all afflicted as long as we allow sin to dominate our lives. According to St. Paul: “These things are WARNINGS for us, not to desire evil as they did nor grumble as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1Cor. 10:10).
Two: Never Underestimate Sin.
Sin is an affliction, a suffering, a detestable condition, something that makes us live lower than the dignity God desires for us. In fact, in our Gospel passage, we see that not only is Sin a form of slavery, but it is also a calamity and a disaster. Some persons told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. They wanted to know if this disaster was as a result of their sins, assuming that they must have been the worst sinners on earth to deserve such a cruel death.
To their surprise, Jesus said, these victims were not any worse than any one of them (meaning no matter how little our sins are, we too deserve such calamity). Jesus also added a similar instance of the eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and crushed saying: but UNLESS WE REPENT, WE WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH. In this way, Jesus paints a vicious picture of sin as something we must avoid at all costs.
Three: Is Calamity a Punishment for sin?
Does God allow bad things to happen to us as a result of our sinfulness? If this is the case, how do we explain the case of Job who was a righteous man yet faced a series of affliction? How do we explain the unfortunate things that happen to us even when we are walking in righteousness? How do we explain the brutal death of Jesus even when He was completely sinless?
The truth is that God does not treat us according to our faults. As the Psalmist says: “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:10). Also in Matthew 5:45, Jesus told us that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” This means that good things and bad things happen to both good and bad people not necessarily as a direct punishment for sins. The point Jesus wants us to take to heart is that Sin itself is a calamity just as bad as any other calamity we may experience in life.
Four: There is Good News.
The Good News is that we serve a God who CARES for us, a God who FEELS our plight, a God who UNDERSTANDS our struggles and is ever ready to help us. The Good news is that God did not abandon the Israelites, but sent Moses to free them from the hands of captivity. This is really Good News because it means that no matter the extent of our present grip under the captivity of sin, God will not abandon us when we cry to Him. Just as the Israelites could not save themselves, we cannot do it on our own. Nevertheless, Moses did not force them out of Egypt, their exit came as a result of their own cooperation with Moses. This is exactly what Jesus means when He demands repentance from us.
To repent is to make efforts. Yes, God is interested in the efforts you are making. This is why Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. For three years, the man who planted the fig tree did not see any fruits and he decided to cut it down. The vinedresser pleaded for more time to dig around it and manure it saying if by next year, it still doesn’t produce fruit, it could be cut down. What efforts are you making? Have you given up on yourself? Why not dig around your lukewarm heart and apply more manure to your spirituality? The truth is that you really do not have all the time. You do not know when you will take your last breath, Act Now!
Conclusion: Hate Sin Enough to Flee From it.
The first key to repentance is to see sin for what it really is. Develop a strong hatred for sin and never take any sin for granted. The worst thing that can ever happen to you is to trivialize sin, painting it as “normal” or just one of those things. Remember, the choice is yours to make: Repent or Perish!