Just a few words on the fruitless fig tree in today’s gospel. I read somewhere that fig trees bear fruit for ten months of the year so it was reasonable to expect fruit at almost any time. The tree would grow for three years before it bore figs. Then according to the book of Leviticus any fruit tree that has been planted the fruit of it may not be eaten for three years, the fourth year the fruit will be offered to God and the next year the fruit may be eaten by the people.
In the parable Jesus tells us the owner of the vineyard had come three years looking for figs – that’s nine years since it was planted. He had it with this useless, fruitless tree. Dig it up and use it for fuel. The gardener asks for another year, give it a chance.
Obviously the fig tree is symbolic. This fruitless tree stands for every person who hears Jesus’ call for repentance and ignores it. Its fruitlessness signifies the life of a person who lives his or her life out of touch with God, as if God did not exist, the same God who wants us to bear fruit, fruit that will last.
The owner wants to root it out, throw it away. No mercy, no forgiveness for those who live fruitless lives. The gardener wants it left alone, given another chance; you never know what the future holds.
In this parable we can see Jesus not as the owner of the farm but is the gardener asking for mercy for this fruitless tree. This is exactly what he is doing during this Lenten season, during this year of mercy. He is calling all of us to be more faithful in our relationship with the Father, more faithful in our relationship him. He calls us to forgive those who wronged or harmed us just as he is willing to forgive us. He calls us to love all others as he has loved us, even to dying for us. He calls us to be there for others in need just as he is there for us in our needs. He calls us to be merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful. He calls us to get our act together and believe the good news of God’s love for us. Patiently he waits for each of us to get our act together and let God’s grace work in our lives so that we will bear fruit, fruit that will last.
Maybe we could look into how we are living our daily lives, especially how we relate to family members and fellow workers and ask ourselves how we are responding to the care of Christ our gardener who is so willing and patient to help us grow in our Christian faith and be a source of nourishment to all those who come into our live. May we pray for ourselves and for each other that we all bear fruit – fruit that will last.