October 24, 2020
As many of you know, I minister at our local county jail a couple evenings each month. I happened to have been there this past Thursday evening and enjoyed a visit with ten “guests” of the criminal justice system. At some point during every one of the sessions at the jail, I will bring up the fact that our God is a kind, merciful and forgiving God. I know that the men before me have most likely committed some crime or offense against others and are in jail for a legitimate reason. But I also accept the possibility that there are innocent people who have been incarcerated. Further, there are likely even more men and women who do not belong in jail or prison. Rather, they belong in some sort of facility that provides mental health treatments, drug and alcohol abuse help programs or some other form of assistance. And finally, there are also those men and women who have made a mistake in their lives but are otherwise good people who need to make some form of restitution.
Regardless of which type of person I am describing within the criminal justice system, each and ever one of them can repent. Further, each and every one of us, you and I, can also repent. I often like to remind myself that only Jesus and our mother Mary were perfect and without error. Every other one of us, from Pope Francis on down is a sinner and have made mistakes. Everyone is called to repentance.
In today’s gospel reading from Luke we have the familiar parable of the barren fig tree. The fig tree grows within the owner’s orchard and occupies good soil but bears no good fruit. After coming for three years in search of fruit and finding none, the owner instructs the gardener to cut the fig tree down. But the gardener pleads with the owner to grant him another year with which the gardener will provide special care for the fig tree.
How often do we wallow in our sinful ways while our Lord waits for us to seek repentance, to seek forgiveness, to seek His mercy? God comes to each of us, just as he comes to the fig tree and asks; Where is the fruit? We bear no fruit because we have not sought forgiveness for our sins. Jesus is the gardener and pleads with the Father. Give me another year and perhaps I can get men and women to turn from their sinful ways and seek repentance.
We must not give up hope of ever producing fruit. The decision as to the cutting down and the time when it should take place is tactfully left to the owner upon whose will alone it depends. All should recognize in the fig tree an image of ourselves, and see in the punishment with which the barren tree was threatened the fate which awaits us if we delay repentance.
Every person resembles the fig tree in the orchard. We, you and I, are destined to bring forth good fruit by fulfilling the will of God. We have received from God all that we need to fulfill this purpose. As we turn from sinful ways, seek repentance and forgiveness, God’s mercy will flow in superabundance over us. Blessed with His graces, we can and will bear good fruit.
Have a blessed day!