We now prepare to hear Lent’s call to conversion and repentance. Today’s reading is part of the stories that describe Jesus’ trek to Jerusalem. In this journey, Jesus continues to teach and heal. He also responds to those who question and challenge his authority and actions. Jesus’ words at first appear to have a firm and determined tone in it. Essentially he is saying, “Repent or die as these people did; all are sinful before God and deserving of punishment.” It changes, however, in the parable that follows. The parable of the barren fig tree tells us the patience and hopefulness of the gardener with the pragmatism of the owner. When told to cut down the fig tree because it is not producing fruit, the gardener advises giving it a chance. With patience and with care, the barren fig tree may still bear fruit.
In this parable, we find an imagery of God as full of patience and hopefulness. He calls us to repent, as it is within His power to punish us for our failure to turn from our sinfulness. And yet God is merciful; He delays punishment and tends to us just like the fig tree, so that we may yet bear the fruit He desires from us.
Life is often a matter of falling and getting up again. Our fickleness makes us trip down over and over again. The fig tree was barren, but got another chance. Give it one more chance. God never points the accusing finger while there is still time. He always grants an extension, another chance at redemption! In our lives the prevailing feeling is that we are judged by God and then condemned. This is never the case.
However, let us not challenge the patience of God. Many times we see people dying unexpectedly as in accidents and calamities. Only God knows how they will fare in judgment day, especially those in the state of mortal sin. The possibility of hell is terrifying. Let us not give that possibility to happen to us. We must be on guard. Let us repent, and let us allow God’s mercy to envelope us. Let this Lenten season bring us to repentance and renew once more our commitment to the Lord.
“As the heavens tower over the earth, so God’s love towers over the faithful.” (Ps. 103: 11)