I have heard terrible things. I have heard Christian pastors describe earthquakes as divine retribution, hurricanes as fitting, and the killing of innocent people as the will of God. It is understandable when someone of another religion speaks along these lines, but a Christian ought to know better. You would think that they had never read this Gospel, in which Jesus debunks such theories.
However, Jesus does not take the popular route which says that God does not punish sinners. Instead, he tells us that God does punish sinners, “and unless you repent, you will all perish as they did!” It is not that the victims of disasters are innocent but that we are just as guilty. If God were going to send a disaster to kill all the sinners, we would all die. Saying that a disaster hit a particular city because of the sinfulness of the inhabitants is crazy. If that were true, disasters would be hitting every city on earth nonstop. It is not the accusation of guilt in these Christian pastors that is most despicable; it is the presumption of self-righteousness. They think that they are better than the people who died.
None of us are innocent. We are all sinners, and if you think that you are not as bad as others, what does that even matter? God does not grade on a curve. The truth is that disaster strikes all of us. For some it may come in spectacular form, while others die quietly, but all of us are awaiting disaster.
Does it matter, really, if you die at 29 or 99? Does it matter whether your airplane falls out of the sky or you die in your sleep? Whichever, whenever, a life is ended, snuffed out from the earth. Your life, my life, they will all end, and what will have been the point?
Jesus tells us that the point is to bear fruit. God puts a seed of love within us, he waters it with love, and love shines down on it. This love should grow in us and produce its fruit which is love: love for our neighbor, love for our enemy, love for the least one who live among us, and above all love for God. Our life is not measured by how long we live but by how much we love. When our personal disaster strikes, and it certainly will, we should have something to show for our time here.