Sunday, March 3, 2013

Time To Bear Fruit

"Three important teachings caught my attention in this gospel (Luke 13:1-9).  

First, we should never look at anyone’s misfortune or suffering as punishment for their sins.  Although the concept of retribution was prevalent in the Old Testament, Jesus insists on forgiveness and advised against the temptation to judge to others.  

Second, the invitation to repentance is for all.  An occasional evaluation of our life is essential for living healthily.  In reality, the call to repentance is more than an invitation.  It’s a strong command. We take note of our own sins rather than the sins of others.  

The third teaching is very much connected to the parable of the fig tree.  The fig tree is a metaphor for our life.  Some times we fight discouragement.  We want to give up hope for others or for ourselves.  We’ve done everything that we can.  We’ve said all sorts of prayers.  Nothing changes.  Can we find a way to replace our discouragement with love and faith?  Perhaps we have to sit alone in the uncertainty of what we’re trying to make better.The author, Frederick Buechner, says, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. 

The amazing teaching in the parable of the fig tree is that the merciful God gives to each of us time to be and to do, even though we have proven that we are uncooperative, faithless, and unproductive. By now, the fig tree should have produced some 
fruit. We can understand why the owner is frustrated and wants the tree removed. It takes up needed space. Taking care of it costs extra. The tree is likely unsightly or unhealthy.

Nevertheless, the vinedresser, here a symbol of the merciful God, asks for more time. How many years has God come to you and me “looking for fruit on the tree”? What has God found? He is willing to give us more time, but not indefinitely.

God will continue to dig up our false complacency, security, and reliance on ourselves. God will put fertilizer on the ground, to give us humility to recognize who God is and who we are. God will do anything to convince us to repent, to change, to give our lives in faithfulness and loving service.

The poet, James Magaw, writes: 

Too often
I want to say
Nothing new for me, thanks!
Nothing different,
No fearful risks.
I thank God for a savior
Who is the same
Yesterday, today,
That is a savior
To match my life.
Only this question disturbs me:
Is this salvation, 
Or avoidance of the cross?” 

(Translated & adapted from “para ver si da fruto”, by Macrina Wiederkeher, OSB, III Domingo de Cuaresma in Un Año de Domingos, Estudio Bíblico de Little Rock, p. 22)

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