Today’s Gospel passage really packs a wallop.
The incident with the fig tree seems to warn against show without substance, a comment that is often uttered by professional baker Paul Hollywood as he judges the creations of those who vie for the title of best amateur baker in Great Britain. The Gospel mentions that it was not the time for figs so we wonder what Jesus was expecting. However, even if it was too early for figs, there should have been some unripened fruit on the branches.
Next we hear St. Mark’s version of the cleansing of the temple. Again we might ask what Jesus expects. The vendors in the Temple play an important role in providing victims for the sacrifices. However, Jesus’ words are a teaching on prayer seeming to indicate that there was too much emphasis on selling and not enough praying.
Next we have a lesson in faith. With faith anything is possible, even the seemingly impossible mountains in our lives can be moved if we trust in God’s promise to answer our prayers.
Finally we hear a lesson about forgiveness. Forgive others your grievances against you, and God will forgive your grievances.
As a narrative, this passage might seem to be somewhat disjointed, jumping from one topic to another. However, if we take the whole passage and look at it through the window of the barren fig tree, we can see that the lesson that Jesus is teaching is about being true to who we are, true to what God asks of us, and true to the commission we have received as followers of Jesus – Substance rather than show. At the end of the Gospel, the fig tree has withered to its roots. It points to a time in the future when the Temple itself will be devastated without a stone upon another stone.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator