The unexpected happens and catches people off guard. Some people thought they would go to the Temple in Jerusalem, offer prayers and sacrifices before returning home. They ended up in a riot. Pilate had his soldiers brutally restore order without any regard to who was innocent or guilty. Men kiss their wives goodbye and head to work thinking they would be home in a few hours. A tower falls and everything is changed. The first event comes from human malice. But what about the second? In Jesus’ time it was seen as God punishing the sinner.
The people who report these events to Jesus had a sense that those killed got what they deserved. Not only was that an ugly and false image of God and how He acts, it also leads to a dangerous way of thinking of their own lives. It seems they have closed the door to God’s call to ongoing conversion. Jesus had a great way of not letting people off the hook and asks those who told Him of these tragedies, “What about you? What about your life? What are you doing at this moment about conversion, repentance and reform? If life is so fragile and short, shouldn’t you do something now about changing your own life by taking the Gospel seriously instead of wondering about others?”
What a grace God gives us with the gift of time to grow, mature spiritually, reform our lives, serve Him, remove obstacles large and small that come between Him and us and us and others. However, the parable is not open ended. Time runs out in unexpected and tragic ways. Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return. When that happens we may find ourselves spiritually unprepared. That is not what the Father wants for us. So there is a sense of urgency from Jesus along with an echo heard from Ash Wednesday from St. Paul, “…we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: ’In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.’ Behold, now is the acceptable time…” (2 Cor. 6:1-2).
The warning of Christ is a gift because it shakes us out of compliancy and shifts our gaze from wondering about others to ourselves so we can accept the Lord’s grace to do the hard work of change and conversion. And isn’t Lent a good time for such a response to Christ?