February 28, 2010

My Fig Tree Named "Faith"

3rd Sunday of Lent (C)
March 7, 2010
Luke 13: 1-9 “Sir, leave it for this year, and I shall cultivate the ground around it”

Last Thursday, the Northwest Yeshiva Girls basketball team forfeited their playoff game against St. John in Washington. They walked off the court after their game was scheduled during the Jewish "Fast of Esther," a day when Jewish people go fast for food and water. When their request to change the game time was denied, they decided to forfeit and sacrificed the championship playoff. The school’s head, Rabbi Bernie Fox said, "We didn't think it was safe for the team to play without water. We worked really hard to get here, to qualify for playoff. But we're also very happy to be able to show that our religion is very important to us. And they felt that as important as this basketball tournament was, they couldn't compromise their personal values. I'm very proud of them."

Our gospel shows us a different Jesus. Out of Jesus’ exasperations of dealing with people who see nothing but the sins of others, he blurted out twice, “I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” (Luke 13:3,5) And then told the crowd the parable of the barren fig tree, “For three years now, I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. Cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?” (Luke 3:7).

The call to repent from our sins is one of things we need to seriously consider this season of lent. But in our gospel today, to repent does not only mean to be sorry for our sins and ask forgiveness. In our parable, it is not mentioned that the fig tree is a bad tree, but the fact that it has no fruits for the past three years. Jesus wants it cut. We may not be murderers, adulterers, drug pushers, and the likes. But we may be fig trees without fruits in the making. To be a Christian is not just to be “good” in the sense that we don’t offend, abuse, or harass people. We should go beyond the attitude of “I don’t offend others, I mind my own business, and you mind your own.” This is not the meaning of being a good Christian. Good Christians are expected to bear fruit by labouring with the Lord in his enterprise of saving souls.

St.Ignatius of Loyola, in his Spiritual Exercises, explained the will of God, “Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls.” (Spex 23). For him, to “serve” God includes commitment to God’s work, “to labour with him, so that following him in his suffering, we will also follow him in his glory.” (Spex 95). No pain, no glory. No labor, no fruits. Thus, if we are minimalist Christians who are happy with just attending Sunday Mass, saying our prayers, novenas, and rosaries, fasting and abstinence during lent, and giving alms to beggars once in a while... we may end up like the fig tree without fruits. We may end up like the Pharisees who faithfully do their religious rituals but do nothing for the poor and then claim righteousness.

I do admire the Northwest Yeshiva Girls who gallantly stood for their faith because they know their priority – their faith. But Jesus wants us to do “magis” (more) for God. He wants to see “faith in action” in our lives, for St.Paul said, “Faith without action is dead.”

Our faith is the fig tree and our action is the fruit. To bear fruit is to allow ourselves to be cultivated and fertilized regularly by our Lord, the Gardener. But such cultivation and fertilization of our faith (our fig tree) means doing what God wants: All are called to share in Christ’s ongoing work of establishing the Kingdom of God in the world. Our personal, family and community prayer should disturb us and open our eyes to the needs of others. Here is the flowering of a fig tree, and on its way to bearing fruits!

Repent, amend, and act now! The Lord is giving us another chance. Let your fig tree bears fruit. Let your faith bears action. Reach out. Serve. Forgive.

- Fr. Willy M. Samson,SJ / Sacred Heart Jesuit Community, Los Gatos / March 7, 2010

read "Team Forfeits Playoffs due to religious fast."

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