OCTOBER 23. Ord Time B. Wk 29. Sat. Lk 13. 1-9
Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’
He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’
This reading occurs within a long discourse from Jesus where he is instructing his disciples prior to his entry into Jerusalem and he talks about multiple issues. Here we are told of an incident where some people had arrived and told him about some local tragedies at the time.
Jesus then used these events to teach his followers there is no relationship between the hardships and sacrifices they have to endure and their sinfulness. The message Jesus wanted to convey was that such events should be seen as a call to repentance, rather than a sign those who suffered were somehow worse sinners than those who did not.
“Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? - They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did!”
And then he moves to a parable built very much on God’s patience and love, with the owner of a fig tree suggesting to the man who looked after it, that maybe the time had come to rip the tree out; - “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?”
But the vineyard worker intercedes on behalf of the tree and pleads for it to be given more time to produce the fruit the owner was seeking; - “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”’
The fig tree in this parable can be seen to represent the Jewish people, whom God had chosen to be his own; - made them a people dear to him; - and expected obedience and fulfilment of duties from them; - which were represented by the fruit; - which was not forthcoming!
While Christ’s gentle criticism of the lack of fruit, can be seen as a call to repentance from the Jewish people; - the “call” or “warning” applies equally to the Church of today, where the absence of “fruit” is even more apparent in the way God’s people have become worldly and materialistic, with a focus on the now; - rather than on eternal life.
“Every tree that does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. By their fruit you will know them!”
Gospel Acclamation Ezk33:11
I do not wish the sinner to die, says the Lord,
but to turn to me and live.
First reading Romans 8:1-11 ·
The Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you
The reason why those who are in Christ Jesus are not condemned is that the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. God has done what the Law, because of our unspiritual nature, was unable to do. God dealt with sin by sending his own Son in a body as physical as any sinful body, and in that body God condemned sin. He did this in order that the Law’s just demands might be satisfied in us, who behave not as our unspiritual nature but as the spirit dictates.
The unspiritual are interested only in what is unspiritual, but the spiritual are interested in spiritual things. It is death to limit oneself to what is unspiritual; life and peace can only come with concern for the spiritual. That is because to limit oneself to what is unspiritual is to be at enmity with God: such a limitation never could and never does submit to God’s law. People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God. Your interests, however, are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made his home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ you would not belong to him. Though your body may be dead it is because of sin, but if Christ is in you then your spirit is life itself because you have been justified; and if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then he who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your own mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.