The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
March 20th, 2022 - Third Sunday of Lent - John 4:5-42
Download this simple process to Prepare for Sunday using the Observe, Judge, Act Method.
I am fascinated by trees. There’s hardly a tree anywhere that I don’t notice. And long ago I learned that trees are very important for the survival of life. In part, it has something to do with the air we breathe. They are also one of nature’s best signs of a healthy environment. I live in a part of the world where forest fires are common. Burning forests sadden me. I know they can sometimes be helpful for the survival of a species. But still …
Today’s gospel recalls how Jesus used a certain fig tree as a teaching device. Jesus was a great teacher and he liked to use common examples to illustrate his deeper messages. Also, most of his listeners knew about fig trees.
No doubt Jesus noticed that some fig trees brought forth each year abundant fruit, and some were baren. A tree that failed to produce fruit was basically useless to its owner. The one referred to in the gospel parable of Jesus was fruitless. Planted to produce figs, it didn’t produce any for years. Thus, common sense would suggest that it should be cut down.
No, said Jesus. At least, not yet. Let’s give it another chance. Let’s supply it with some fertilizer and extra care. If this were an illustrated child’s story, we might see a smile on the face of the tree who would now try harder to bring forth at least a few figs.
Of course, Jesus was not trying to give a lesson in botany. But rather advice about how to live more in accord with God’s plan. We are advised not to given up on ourselves. There’s always the possibility of improvement. And know that if we need a little extra help (like additional fertilizer) to produce results, it’s available. Including God’s help.
As this gospel notes, we might also need to repent. Repentance implies that we change our lives from being turned away from God to moving toward God. At the heart of repentance is living our lives in new and better ways. There is a saying that foolishness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Yet if that fig tree didn’t change its way, it would never produce a single fig. We need to change to improve.
And that’s part of the work of Lent. Be honest with oneself. And with the promise of God’s help, change for the better. What precisely that change might be will be different for each of us.
©David M. Thomas, PhD