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Luke 13:1-9

At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, ‘Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them-do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.'
Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, "See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?" He replied, "Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig round it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." '

Luke 13:1-9
  • Some thoughts on today's scripture

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    • Jesus comments on the news stories of his time. Just as in our time, narratives of destruction and distress capture the attention. As always, Jesus is telling us not just to look out but is asking us to look in; He is concerned not just with what is going on in our heads but wants us to look at what is happening in our hearts and ask how God is opening us to compassion, prompting us to repentance and leading us to life.
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    • Jewish belief was that whatever evil befell people was a punishment for sin. The more a person had to suffer, the greater their sinning must be! Jesus rejects this simplistic notion. Instead he emphasises repentance, which means a turning around toward God and one’s neighbour.
    • Cultivating and fertilising the fig tree is a symbol of God’s mercy in action. Lord, you know my strengths and my frailties better than I do. You are a patient and loving God and you have planted the seeds of change in my heart. Now is the time for these seeds to bear fruit.  
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    • The gardener planted the tree. He waters it, feeds it, and prunes it. Everything he does is designed to produce a strong, healthy fruitful tree. Can I see his loving hand in all that happens to me?
    • The Lord has planted me in this life. He has given me all I need to bear fruit that will delight him. Some day in the future will be my last day on earth. After it, there will be no further opportunity to increase the quality or the quantity of the fruit that I bear. What if that day were to be today?
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    • Jesus uses two instances of tragedy as occasions to call for repentance and conversion. No one can predict what the future may bring, but one can determine to a degree what happens today. As Saint Paul states: ‘Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
    • We are presented here with two contrasting attitudes. The owner sees only that the barren fig tree is wasting valuable space. But the gardener, who is more expert in these matters, loves the tree and sees that it may have potential with proper care and nurturing; he wants to give it another chance. The gardener represents God’s compassion, and also his activity in my life to make me blossom.
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    • Jesus knew that people are easily distracted by the news from the world around them. When he said, ‘think of yourselves, of your own hearts’ he was not being dismissive or careless about the world but is calling us to have the same compassion as he had.
    • Jesus often uses images of cultivation and growth to help us understand the kingdom of God. God puts care, attention, energy and sacrifice into my growth. I ask for help to bear the fruit that God values.
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    • Like the fig tree, I can feel that my life is sterile. But I ask God for a little more time to bear fruit. What nourishment do I need to become a fruitful tree that gives itself generously?
    • Jesus often speaks of the need to repent. This means turning away from anything that is not of God. I ask to be brought more and more into the world of goodness and love, of light and of truth. I want to be a genuine disciple.  
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    • The story about the fig tree is about the patience of God, our need for time to repent and grow in our faith and prayer, and it is about the 'God of the many chances'. The God of Jesus never lets go on us, and always believes in our future. All of us carry particular faults and failings through life, and even though we try our best, find that they stay with us. God knows this and sees our efforts to change and be renewed. Prayer helps us to believe in ourselves as God believes in us.
    • In the different desires and activities of life we can be with God or not with him. We can love him fully or find ourselves tempted from God's path. Jesus calls all the time to change so that we live out of the best side of ourselves and change so that we become more like him. At the Eucharist we pray, 'May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity'.