3rd SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR C
March 3, 2013
PRODUCE OR BE CUT DOWN!
There is an element of fear and a deep sense of reality in the Gospel of today. Fear, for we are told about consequences, and the examples the Lord uses, are rather gory: the Galileans killed by Pilate, and the 18 people who perished in a disaster at Siloam. Unless we repent, we are told, we will all suffer a similar fate.
Consequences are not easy to understand in our times. We live in a time when there seems to be an infinite number of choices and alternatives to forestall or prevent unwanted consequences. I have two dogs right now, for example. Both are infested with ticks, big and voracious ones (garrapata, in Spanish). One can always pay for an injection that makes dogs’ blood poison for ticks. Nowadays, we can easily procures vaccines … one prevents polio; others prevent other diseases that used to be common in times past.
We have pills to control obesity; tablets to control blood sugar; and CCTV cameras to reign in burglars and tame criminals … Or so, we think! Why, we also have pills and tablets and injectables to prevent human conception and, while we are at it, why not? … abort fetuses (a word which people are careful to use, instead of babies)!
The concept of consequences that can be controlled or done away with, or prevent is something that every digital native knows first hand – through the concept of anti-virus!
Today, the good Lord uses fear to remind us, too. Unless we repent, we run the risk of suffering from tragedies – similar or related to those suffered by the Galileans and the 18 unnamed individuals at Siloam.
But lest we get enslaved by fear, the Lord, it must be said, too, uses more than just fear, and not primarily fear. He uses common sense. He capitalizes on reason. He makes a springboard of faith, when He reminds us that there are consequences we just cannot run away from … and results or products we cannot excuse ourselves from.
It is simply a fact of life that we expect fruits from figs we plant, isn’t it? It stands to reason and common sense that we ought to expect results from all we do, doesn’t it?
But the underpinning lesson that the Gospel and the two other readings show us today has nothing to do with fear, nothing to do with ineluctable consequences, but everything to do with a patient, forgiving, long-suffering and compassionate God, who shows Himself not unlike all farmers in the world – then – and now! “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.”
I would like to think that God is represented by that responsible, patient, and forebearing farmer. He is willing to wait. He is ready to give chances. He is capable of extending deadlines … all because He loves us, who form part of His vineyard!
But at the same time, the clock is ticking. There is a deadline. Time is limited. We grow old and wax impatient, too. And even rivers run dry, and planes have to retire somewhere in the Mojave desert in Nevada and California. We all have had reports to finish and papers to turn in. The world cannot wait forever for spoiled brats like us to grow mature and grow responsible.
We need to learn to bear fruit. We need to grow in showing results. We need to show what we are capable of doing, after receiving everything as capital from the Lord. And the rule is … very simply … Produce or be cut down!