One looks for a glimmer of hope in this Sunday's Gospel reading. The reading unfolds as a remembrance of two of Jesus' threatening statements and one of his parables. The threats from Jesus are the results of a certain way an audience tells Jesus about Galilean blood that Pilate, ever a harsh man and never one of half-measures, mixed with Jewish sacrifices in Jerusalem (the only place of Jewish sacrifices). This audience in some way must have suggested to Jesus that 'the insult revealed the sinfulness of these Galileans'. Jesus does not respond to any subtle suggestion that indeed their humiliation shows they were sinners; sin causes death, but death is not automatically the proof of prior sinfulness. Indeed, as Paul wrote, "...and with sin came death"; indeed, death is the proper result of sin against God (if you sin, you die; if you obey, you live). But it is not safe to conclude from suffering that the sufferer is suffering because he sinned.
Jesus, as usual, follows his own instincts. Here he warns others that, even if you do not suffer what others do, that does not make you less a sinner. That is, one cannot use the degree of pain in one's life to decipher how sinful one is. On the contrary, what one calls 'a fitting suffering for sin' will follow everyone - only it will happen at the Final Judgment and its consequences. The only way one can try to compare oneself with another is to confront directly the truth of one's own sins and be ready for the punishment owed - and forget the comparison.
The parable of Jesus talks about failure to produce fruit, a favorite Jewish image of this time. The one glimmer of hope is that 'someone' pleads that the useless tree be visited at a later time, when, after proper adjustments are made, it might be found to have produced fruit. And the one in charge of the vineyard leaves in patience, waiting and hoping for a growth, a change from fruitlessness to fruitfulness. What will he find? The parable closes with this question. And what will God find when He finishes with patience and returns for a final search for our good fruit?