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 around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
Today’s gospel parable about the scraggly fig tree brings me hope. Some pet project I hold dear gets stalled. A family relationship I worry about is once again a mess. A decision I need to make suddenly becomes more complicated than I imagined. It’s hard to be patient, inconvenient simply to wait. What to do?
Jesus offers a different perspective, one hard to swallow amidst today’s instant iPhone and media culture: “Sir, leave it another year while I hoe around it and manure it; then perhaps it will bear fruit.”
Isn’t it the human realities that so often trip us up? Decisions need time to evolve. Complex issues need space to form and focus. Relationships need a bit more care and attention—that inconvenient process of “hoeing and manuring”—in order to mature.
Can I be patient this weekend with some issue I need to have solved? Can I give space to someone in my family who needs to grow into a conclusion I have already reached? And am I ready to imagine someone’s different decision than the one I have already decided is “right” or “correct”?
—The Jesuit prayer team
Above all trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and this may take a very long time.
Give the Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J.