Third Sunday of Lent – The injustice of suffering
In the time of Jesus there was a widespread belief that suffering and misfortune were a sign of God’s displeasure and punishment, indeed many religions and cultures have clung to some form of ‘karmic determinism’ where we are deemed to be rewarded or punished according to our worth and our actions. Let us be frank we can even fall prey to the same superstitious beliefs today, despite the fact that our past century has witnessed terrible injustices, on a vast scale, where the victims suffered systematic and impersonal violence, wholly unconnected with their individual character, values or behaviour.
This is partially what Luke is trying to communicate, by reporting these words of Jesus, but he is also, of course, looking back at Jesus’ teaching, after the destruction of Jerusalem, an event that happened nearly forty years after Jesus’ arrest and execution. Our hindsight is of a vastly increased length, and seen through cataclysmic events of our own time. How are we to understand suffering, is it punishment, are the victims really to blame?
The feast we celebrate today has many names; the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, the Meeting of the Lord, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, …. Candlemas – based on the tradition of the priest blessing beeswax candles on February 2nd for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. Candles light our processions and stand on our altars, candles are with us at the time of our departing, at our funerals as a symbol of hope and light, but above all candles are with us at our baptisms, all our baptisms.
For if Christ is the light of the world, to the darkness in the world he brings hope and love and light. We too as Christians are meant to be a light to others – to carry the love and light of Christ to all whom we meet.
As the new year starts, advertisers often ask us to look ahead. January may be grey and dull we are told; it is dark and cold when you get up, and the same before you finish for the day. But just think, in the summer you could be on a beach, bathed in sunshine, far away from the realities of today. And, of course, it plays to our weaknesses. Our dissatisfaction with January needs little help or encouragement. But in all this looking forward we are blinding ourselves to the possibilities of life now.
Instead we might give thought to what energises us, what gives us meaning, what is our passion – now. For life is to be lived, not tomorrow – but today.
Jesus said ‘Come and see’.
What if he hadn’t? What if Jesus had not called Andrew and Simon. He would have found other disciples of course. But for Andrew and Simon, what would life have been like for them if he had neither spoken to them or called upon them to follow?
By extension we might ask the same question of ourselves. How would your life be different if you were not a Christian? If you had never been a Christian, what would your life be like? Where would you be, who would you know and love? What would you be doing, what would you be thinking and saying – what difference would it make – who would you be?