This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God’s favour has been bestowed in whatever way Christ allotted it. 8 That is why it says: He went up to the heights, took captives, he gave gifts to humanity. 9 When it says, ‘he went up’, it must mean that he had gone down to the deepest levels of the earth. 10 The one who went down is none other than the one who went up above all the heavens to fill all things.
11 And to some, his ‘gift’ was that they should be apostles; to some prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; 12 to knit God’s holy people together for the work of service to build up the Body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God and form the perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.
14 Then we shall no longer be children, or tossed one way and another, and carried hither and thither by every new gust of teaching, at the mercy of all the tricks people play and their unscrupulousness in deliberate deception. 15 If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow completely into Christ, who is the head 16 by whom the whole Body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each individual part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up in love.
The writer forces a scriptural text to mean that The Messiah who has descended into the place of death has been raises to conquer the superhuman heavenly powers (think “oil” or “terrorism” or “affluence” ), and has given gifts to human beings as a conqueror distributes the spoils of war. This translation disguises the fact that these gifts ARE people: the Greek reads, “He gave some as apostles, some as prophets” etc. The gifts of Christ are whole people who build up the “body of Christ”, that is the new community of which Christ is the head. Again the writer emphasises that our transformation into Christ is corporate; only in community do we find our true identity.
Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people arrived and told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, 2 ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than any others, that this should have happened to them? 3 They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell, killing them all? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? 5 They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
6 He told this parable, ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none.
7 He said to his vinedresser, “For three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?”
8 “Sir,” the man replied, “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: 9 it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.” ‘
Scholars argue over what Jesus meant in his stories about the murdered Galileans and the people killed by falling masonry. I think he’s saying that life is unpredictable and full of accidents which could happen to anyone, so don’t delay repentance. Turn to God now. Yes, God is like the merciful vineyard owner, giving time for improvement, but don’t take his patience for granted: cutting down time may be near. There’s a kind of grim humour in these remarks that seems to me not out of character for Jesus. In medieval times pious people kept bones of animals or even skulls of people in their rooms to remind them of death. Today, even when people have died we avoid the truth of death. We say a funeral should be a “celebration of life”, ignoring the grief and glory of human mortality. Every day is time for repentance.