From the Pastor – March 7, 2010

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.’ (Lk 13:6-9)

I love the agricultural parables of Jesus. Anyone who has ever planted and nurtured a garden can understand them. We have such rich soil here in Southern Louisiana that just about anything can grow. So if something in our garden isn’t growing, we’re pretty quick to remove it.

In this parable, it’s pretty clear that the owner of the orchard represents God the Father, who searches the orchard looking for good fruit. In the barren fig tree, he finds none, so he wants it cut it down so that it won’t be wasting the soil. The gardener in the parable represents Jesus who asks for another year to spend special attention to the tree before a decision is made to cut it down.

We don’t have to stretch too far to see the deeper meaning behind the parable. The trees of the garden represent each of us, and the barren tree represents those people who people receive all types of gifts from the soil, but give nothing back. Those people are “wasting soil,” and should be cut down because in a sense they are already dead.

But Jesus pleads for those barren lives, and asks that they be given another chance to bear fruit. And we shouldn’t make light of the words of Jesus. He who is “kind and merciful” isn’t proposing a permanent decision not to cut the tree down. He’s proposing “another chance.” He’s interceding to give us another chance. And so each Sunday He cultivates our souls with His words of spirit and life in the Scripture, and He fertilizes our souls with His Sacred Body and Blood in the Eucharist. And He asks each of us to bear fruit.

What does it mean “to bear fruit”? Does it mean just to “be nice to people” and not to commit mortal sin? Is it just showing up for Mass, putting a dollar in the collection, receiving Communion and going home? From the parable, it appears to mean something more. It means to produce a harvest of good works. It means taking part in the corporal works of mercy (feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; clothe the naked; shelter the homeless; visit the sick; visit those in prison; and bury the dead) and the spiritual works of mercy (instruct the ignorant; counsel the doubtful; admonish sinners; bear wrongs patiently; forgive offences willingly; comfort the afflicted; and pray for the living and the dead).

As we prepare for our Parish Ministry Fair next weekend, consider what fruits God is calling you to bear. He’s given you another chance, another year. His Son is cultivating and fertilizing your soul. What fruit will you bear?

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty