Last week we saw how mercy is similar to…but a little different from…grace. This week we consider mercy while contemplating the unanswerable question about why bad things sometimes happen to ordinary people.
One of the most heartbreaking things to witness on the news these days has been the onslaught of the Zika virus in Brazil. One family who has faced the brunt of the epidemic in Brazil is Jacqueline Vieira and her son Daniel. Daniel was born with microcephaly, a condition that impairs development in small children and is believed to be linked to the Zika virus. Caring for her child would be difficult enough, under the circumstances. But Jacqueline lives in poverty. She also now lives alone with Daniel. Her husband, when he learned of the child’s condition, wanted Jacqueline to undergo an abortion. “I was forced to give up my marriage to save the life of my baby,” Jacqueline says. She is fighting to see that her son, even with the challenges he faces, has the best life possible, for as long as possible.
We want to answer the question of why families like Jacqueline Vieira’s must suffer such things. Too often, like Job’s friends or the people talking to Jesus in our text today (Luke 13:1), we try to find an easy answer. Is it because those who suffer (and they alone) did something really bad to deserve it? The answer, according to Jesus, is no. Jesus directs us not to judge others as ever deserving of tragedy. He knows the need to ask the question of why suffering must happen is natural. But time and again Jesus directs us away from asking the question to the very real circumstances of how precarious—and precious—health and material blessing truly are. At times misfortune can be our own doing and at other times it is tragically unlucky. Jesus comes to us in the midst of the world’s misfortune calling us to repent. He calls us to lean on God’s mercy to look differently at—and live differently in—our world.
Recognizing during this holy season of Lent that health and material blessings are a gift, we repent anew and turn to our Life-giving Lord. Our God wants the best for ALL the fig trees in His garden. We never know how much time we will have or what conditions will be like in this life, but we do know that everything we enjoy is from the merciful Gardener. Let’s spend the time we have in the pursuit of good things for God’s people.