In one of the most significant Gospels of Lent, Jesus offers us an insight into our relationship with God and a further understanding of how and why people undergo evil. Rather than seeing human suffering as simply a punishment for sin, Jesus instead tells a story about second chances. Jesus ask whether some Galileans, put to death by Pontius Pilate were more guilty of sin than other Galileans. And Jesus answers his own questions by saying, “No.” Then Jesus considers the case of people who were killed in the collapse of a building. Was God punishing them for some transgression? Jesus once again affirms that their deaths had nothing to do with sin or punishment by God for sinfulness of some sort.

And then Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree that produces no fruit. The master of the house wants to cut it down, but the gardener suggests that it should be fertilized and given special treatment just one more season, and then – if there is still no fruit – then the owner can carry out his will. Should we conclude that Jesus sees himself as the gardener, asking the master for just one more chance for the tree? Or is it God himself who offers all of us second chances?  

—Fr. Michael A. Vincent, S.J. serves as associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu, University Heights, OH.