The gospel for the third Sunday of Lent (February 28, 2016) poses a question often asked, especially after a disaster or accident: Did the victim deserve that fate? Was it foolishness or punishment for misdeeds? How can God allow such sufferings? A catastrophic earthquake in Portugal spawned a wide ranging debate, giving rise to the philosophical term theodicy. It is interesting to look at how Jesus answers the question when it is posed to him:
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” Luke 13:1-5
My reading of this is that they did not get an answer. The eighteen people may have been sinners - or they may just have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. What Jesus does tell the Galileans is that they should stop taking stock of other's behavior and, instead, take their own inventory. He follows this with a story about a fig tree that was not producing fruit. The gardener pleads that the tree should be given time. "..it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down."
The lesson, it seems to me, is clear. Rather that seeking to see where others have gone wrong, we need to focus on producing fruit in our own lives.