We really enjoy landscaping our yard. But when we started almost 20 years ago we were totally overwhelmed. We decided to hire a landscape designer who created a beautiful layout that provided colorful blooms from spring through fall. One of the focal points in the front yard was an ornamental tree that was supposed to be covered in blossoms at the start of spring each year. I waited for blooms for the first three springs before losing patience and moving the tree to the back yard where it shriveled and seemed to die.
This week's Gospel is also about a barren tree:
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
And he told them this parable: “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 tree but 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.’” Luke 13:1-9
Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree to drive home a point to the concerned people. They seem to be looking for some sort of sinful justification that caused the death of the Galileans and 18 others. Without the parable to make His point, Jesus' words to the people seemed harsh. "But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did." Once Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree the people learn of the merciful gardener who offers a second chance.
We hear this Gospel during Lent as we seek to turn away from our sinfulness. Lent gives us a season to cultivate the ground around us and to be enriched by the Merciful Gardener. It is important that we remember that behind the scenes we have an advocate who has provided us with a second chance. We need to flourish and bear fruit for Him.
A couple of years after I moved the tree to the back yard I noticed something amazing. A couple of unique blossoms appeared. I now know that the Red Bud was prevalent in biblical times and was known to herald the coming of spring with its beautiful blossoms that covered its bark and branches. I am glad our tree made the best of its second chance. It brings us great joy each spring. Make the best of your Lenten season!