The fig tree

March 20, 2022

Throughout history, the Lord has been revealed to us in numerous ways. Moses saw the Lord in a burning bush, on fire but not consumed, arousing his curiosity to see how the laws of nature could be contradicted. If God could free fire from fuel, maybe God really could free people from captivity. A God who could control fire could also control the sea. Over the centuries that followed, a tradition was handed down that the miraculous rock that produced water traveled with them through the desert. Paul identifies that rock with Christ, providing spiritual drink to sustain the Chosen People, as his Body and Blood nourishes us still. Even a barren fig tree can reveal the divine, witnessing to the hope we maintain for repentance and renewal. In today’s Gospel, Jesus points out that most of those in his audience believed that those who died tragically in unexpected ways must have been especially sinful. This is not so, he insists, but it is a reminder to all of us to repent and live holy lives right now, for you never know when you might perish. His parable of the fruitless fig tree illustrates this urgency. The three years it bore no fruit may symbolize a person’s failure to perform any of the three actions Jesus calls us to do. May we bear fruit by fasting, praying, and giving alms, now and in the years to come, justifying the Gardener’s patience with us.  At first blush, Lent would seem to be a season more suited for winter than spring. It’s a penitential season, a season when we deny our desires, a season that leads to our Lord’s death, and to the inevitable contemplation of our own. But it’s also the season in which we are given the opportunity for renewal, a season when fertilizer (Greek koprian, “manure”), like ashes, is used to coax life from the earth. It is a season of grace that reminds us to bear the fruit that has failed to bloom for the last forty days culminate in the celebration of the greatest rebirth into new life. On this first day of spring, may we resolve to blossom as the gardener envisions the fig tree will; growth out of manure, fruit out of barrenness, life out of death. Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2022)

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