Third Sunday of Lent 2011: Gospel:The Parable of The Fig Tree and Commentary

 James Tissot

This Sunday's Gospel Reading is The Parable of the Fig Tree and there is good news for this one.

Another fig tree appears again later in Lent and it is not a happy ending for this tree.
( But that's a different story).

The fig tree in this parable gets off lightly !!

"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 treebut 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 Rev. John J. Pilch of Georgetown University has written of this parable:

"The Palestinian fig tree bears fruit ten months of the year, and so one can reasonably expect to find fruit at almost any time. The time sequence regarding fig trees is this: first, the tree would have three years to grow after planting. The fruit of the next three years is considered forbidden (see Lev 19:23). The fruit of the seventh year is considered clean and ought to be offered to the Lord (Lev 19:24).

The owner in this parable has come seeking fruit for three years, hence it is nine years since planting, and the situation begins to look hopeless. He rightly urges that it be rooted out, but the gardener urges “mercy,” give the tree yet another chance.

Keep in mind that the parable is not about trees but about the nation's leadership. The gardener's proposed remedy for the tree's problems reflects Jesus' mastery of “insult humour.”

Throughout the Gospels Jesus, the authentic Mediterranean native, resorts to insults on a regular basis, and they are always gems. The gardener might have proposed new soil for the tree, or increased watering.

Instead he proposed spreading manure on it. Jesus' original peasant audience undoubtedly roared with laughter. This is just what those #)%!@* leaders need!

Moreover, in Aramaic there is a wordplay between “dig it out” and “let it alone”.  Judgment = dig it out.  No, mercy and forgiveness = let it alone!

Beautiful figs

The tree cannot lift itself by its roots. The leaders need the intervention of an outsider, the gardener, Jesus himself!

Dedicated reformers are often so focused on the external evils to be exterminated that they neglect the need for personal reform as well.
This is as true of all of us as it is of leaders. This is the point Luke's Jesus makes in today's masterful cluster of readings.
The passage is beautifully appropriate to Lent. It needs no further comment.
Hat Tip to King of Peace for the above. 

 Do I view the trials in my life as opportunities for growth?
 Lord Jesus, help me to uproot sin in my life so that I might bear good  fruit.

Though the fig tree does not blossom
and there is no fruit on the vines,
though the product of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food,
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there are no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the victorious God
of my salvation!
The Lord God is my Strength. 

( Habbakuk)

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