Click to hear Audio Homily
We all are painfully aware of the heartbreaking devastation that folks in our area suffered. Many of us have been donating to, cooking for, delivering to, and consoling those directly affected by the tornados. A couple of days ago, a young mother shared with me her experience. She had volunteered at a church in Paincourtville serving food to those whose homes were destroyed. As she listened to the tragic stories of residents who lost everything, one common statement they each said to her was, “We only lost things; we can always buy those. But we are so grateful for our lives being spared.” The young mother reflected later that day, “Why was my house and property spared while theirs was not? How would I feel if I lost everything that was dear to me? Do I put too much emphasis on acquiring things rather than giving of myself?” Her experience that afternoon at the church parking lot was a transforming one for her.
Jesus did not agree with a popular Jewish belief held at that time that all tragedies and misfortunes were punishments from God, or that enjoying good fortune was a reward from God. Jesus replied to their question with a parable of a barren or useless figtree. Fig trees grow like weeds in stony field and even in cracks of the wall and produce a fruit that leads the owners of vineyards to tolerate their presence between the vines and olive trees. But if they prove unproductive, they can be rooted out in a moment and replaced. So unless they bear fruit, they are taken out quickly. God, however, in Jesus’ parable, gives even these useless trees a second chance to pull their lives together and bear fruit. The point is that God is patient and merciful.
The parable of the barren or useless figtree has a lesson for all of us. God’s mercy is infinite but man’s earthly life, during which he can obtain that mercy, is very finite. God’s mercy can forgive sins no matter how grievous, but His mercy cannot touch even less serious sins unless the sinner is sorry and asks for forgiveness. Christ, our true mediator with God, is continually interceding for us, but unless we do our part by repenting and changing our behavior, his intercession will be of no avail.
On Friday, many of our Donaldsonville people volunteered to cook and deliver meals to those who lost much in a subdivision near Paincourtville. A young man from St. Augustine Chapel in Klotzville who has been delivering meals to the residents since the tragedy explained that his house and car were completely destroyed by a tornado. In fact, he was driving his car fleeing the tornado when his car was flipped upside down. But he got out of the car without a scratch. In the aftermath of the tornado, he walked around his neighborhood saw that many homes were destroyed. The remarkable sight he noticed, time and time again, was that many of the destroyed homes still had a Blessed Mother’s statue standing upright and unharmed. He said, “I have everything I need right now. I may have lost everything, but I can buy those things later.”
What causes suffering or affliction and what do we learn when we look through the eyes of faith? Seeing the statues in the neighborhood comforted the young man and helped him see the mystery of suffering through the eyes of faith. Blessed Mother is always leading us to her Son, and this young man through his faith was bearing fruits of charity, goodness, joy, and patience. The young man knew the joy of the Gospel even in the midst of a tragedy in his own life. Let us all continue to pray for and help those who are suffering from this tragedy.
-Fr. Paul Yi