November 15, 2015
33rd Sunday OT_B


Many years ago, students literally studied under the shade of trees. Back in the day when the public school system was just getting started, there was a dearth of classrooms, so they held classes out in the open.

Years later (and I mean now!)  thousands of students may actually be virtually learning from under the shade of trees and lean-to structures, for the lack of classrooms are actually worse than it was a hundred years ago.

The good Lord today reminds us to “learn a lesson from the fig tree.”  He was actually talking, not about the situation that our country and people are in now, but about our capacity to read signs, to discern, the ability to watch out for signs that point to greater and bigger realities that go beyond the pale of the ordinary and the common place.

I grew up surrounded by trees. I actually knew what it means to plant bananas, coffee shrubs, common vegetables like chayote, and root crops like camote and cassava. My father taught us to look for signs that point to something else we need to do after planting. My grandmother taught us that tubers like cassavas need to be replanted after harvesting them, and that we needed to start out afresh after a bountiful yield.

For a farmer, the capacity to read “signs” actually spells the difference between hunger and fullness. Knowing when is the right time to harvest ahead of the impending rain can mean averting hunger and storing for the future.

All over the world, signs are afoot. Terrorism has once more reared its ugly head, for example, in Paris, France. But today, I don’t intend to go far. We have got enough signs to worry about on the home front. Let me enumerate some of them.

Reports of big time government crooks abound just about everywhere, from the country’s premiere airport to the lowly barangay. Streets are becoming private enclaves. Sidewalks are disappearing, and big time briberies are done in broad daylight.

There is little confidence now in the political system, little credence to the electoral system, and little trust in all institutions, both public and private. These are signs as real and no less clear than the sun getting darkened and the moon not giving light, and stars falling from the sky.

They are all signs that, for the alert and discerning heart, points to one and only basic reality … They point to the reality of sin, and sinfulness, and the culture that it has engendered among men and women of all places.

But they are also signs that the reign of terror, the power of death and darkness are not here to stay forever.

And this is where the capacity to read signs comes in as most handy and most important – when that very same capacity to read signs leads to the most important sign-reading ability of all.

I refer to faith! Faith is the most important sign-reading ability that is open to everyone. And hope is not far from this capacity to see more, not less.

Our times are waning. The liturgical year is about to end. In temperate countries, the leaves are falling; the air gets colder, and the nights grow longer. They are signs, not only that the season is changing, but that in life, all things change; all living things have an end; time is limited.

But they also point to the reality that faith and hope can make us see … that “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.”

Learn this big lesson,  I pray!  Learn a lesson from the fig tree!

The man of faith and hope cannot miss it. The Lord is near!