Scripture Focus: 1 Thessalonians 5.14
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Mark 11.13-14, 20-21
Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it…In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
Reflection: Figs Out of Season
By John Tillman
The fig tree Jesus cursed was unfruitful because it was out of season.
The fig tree was a picture of the Temple that Jesus had cleansed the day before. The Temple (whose massive edifice the disciples were enamored of) bustled with activity but produced none of the spiritual fruits of righteousness that it was intended to produce. It produced robbery rather than righteousness and pridefulness rather than humility.
The withering of the fig tree represented what Jesus consistently predicted would happen to the Temple in about 70 years. “They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 13:33-35; Luke 19.40-44)
Regardless of the season of the year, in the presence of the Messiah, fruitfulness is possible and expected.
It is not possible to know for certain, but Paul may have had the image of the cursed fig tree in mind when he wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 4.1-2) to produce spiritual fruit “in season and out of season.”
In this season, Holy Week may feel strange and divorced from our normal spiritual activities. We will not gather as normal. We may not eat as normal. We may not celebrate as normal. It may feel impossible to produce fruit in a time such as this. We may even feel that we are experiencing the chastisement of Christ that the out-of-season fig tree experienced. We may feel withered and diminished.
But the other side of the living (or perhaps dying) parable of the fig tree is that union with Jesus makes all things possible. The disciples are encouraged that the command to the fig tree is nothing compared to what is possible for those of us who believe.
In a time of crisis the faithful are empowered by grace to respond with what is needed. Through the power of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives we are able to produce fruit in supernatural abundance and beyond our natural abilities.
As Paul prayed for the Thessalonican church, so we pray over ourselves. May we not be disruptive or negligent, lazy or self-interested. Instead, may we focus on being encouraging, helpful, and patient. May we be fruitful, carrying out good and beneficial actions in our communities.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Let them know that this is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it. — Psalm 109.26
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
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