God’s patience and goodness with us during this Lenten journey should not be taken to mean that there is nothing to change in our behavior. It can only mean that the Lord, in His patient love for us, is waiting for us to produce the fruits of a sincere and lasting conversion.
We should not think that conversion consists only in avoiding sin. It is also moving away from doing little for the Lord, to doing as much as we can for the building of the Kingdom and for our own sanctification.
Let our participation in this Eucharistic celebration be a renewal of our commitment to bear fruits of holiness through the fulfillment of our duties.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it. It may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.’ ”
THE CALL TO PRODUCE ABUNDANT FRUIT
Fig trees planted in vineyards receive preferential treatment – well tilled soil, good manure, protection from vandals and animals. If for one year they do not bear fruit, they are without excuse. The decision of the owner of the vineyard in the Gospel to have the barren fig tree cut down is more than justified. Its performance had definitely been disappointing. (See Lk 13:7.)
But barrenness is not a defect that can be found only in trees. It can also be found in people. Spiritual and moral barrenness means the absence of those dispositions and actions which God has a right to expect from us. In spite of the much care and love we have received from Him, our response is often disappointing.
In most cases, it is not a matter of laziness. We are very active. We do many things. We may even give the impression that we are achieving a lot . . . Many of our actions, however, are just like pompous leaves which suck most of our vital energies. We are constantly in danger of forgetting that what matters is not how many things we do, but rather, WHAT we do, HOW and WHY we do it. We are expected to bear fruits of holiness by doing our duty to the best of our ability and out of love for God.
The Lord, of course, is usually patient. But His patience should not be taken to mean that He is either indifferent to what we do, or that He has become unable to check our misbehavior. It simply means that, in His love, and thanks to the intercession of Jesus, He gives us another chance. But a day will come when we will have to account even for these additional signs of love.
These are days of grace; days for an honest evaluation of our performance in the light of God’s generosity and of His expectation. If we discover that our life is so full of “leaves” but lacks the fruits of piety, gratitude, honesty, generosity, purity, sense of responsibility, faith, hope, love . . . we have only one thing to do: UNDERGO CONVERSION and REFORM. In the first part of today’s Gospel, Jesus uses this word twice, both as an exhortation and as a warning.
But He does more than just exhort and warn us. Not only does He give the warning and intercede for us with the Father, but He also offers us His help to rid us from our barrenness. His teaching, His example, His grace will produce the miracle, if only we allow Him to work in us and cooperate with him.
This might be our last chance to finally start producing the long awaited fruits which will delight our divine Master. They will delight our very selves in the first place.