A Call to Repentance

Luke 13: 1-9
Rom 8:8-11 / Psa 24

‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’
(Luke 13:7)

How can the Word of God take root
In my heart, if I don’t concede:
Before my life can bear much fruit
Repentance is first what I need.

Some present at that time told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus told them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ The man replied, ‘Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9)

Reflection

The Jews always associated suffering with sin. This was because historically, their ancestors were always beaten by their enemies and taken into exile whenever they turned to evil ways (like worshipping other gods). When Jesus was told that some Galileans were tortured and killed by Pilate in the temple, He told them that if they did not repent, they too would suffer the same fate. But Jesus’ message today is threefold: first, it is about the true purpose of suffering, which is the call to repentance. Second, true repentance is manifested in a fruitful Christian life. Third, Jesus also assures us of the patience and mercy of God.

In the old Testament, we read about the innumerable tragedies that befell the Chosen People because of their infidelity to their Covenant with God. It seems ‘fire and brimstone’ were the only way to bring the wayward Israelites back to their senses. But in the new teachings of Jesus, He shed new light to the meaning of suffering, as He himself was going to undergo its pangs, sinless though He was. According to Him, suffering is not necessarily caused by sin, but may only be a process of leading us to repentance. In His case, it was all for our own redemption. However, those who persist in their evil ways and do not heed God’s call to repentance will surely suffer a worse punishment — eternal fire.

Repentance is manifested in a fruitful life in the Spirit. St. Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal.5:22) These are just some of the qualities that we will acquire from our Lord Jesus Christ once we accept Him into our life. This late apostle also said, “If Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.” (Rom.8:10-11) It is the Spirit of Jesus that makes us bear much fruit.

Jesus represents the Father’s patience and mercy. He is the ‘gardener’ in His own parable, pleading for the sinner’s life (the barren fig tree). He has cultivated us with His Word, and fertilized us with His own blood so that we may have new life and become fertile. If we still choose not to bear fruit after all that He has done for us, then we truly deserve the axe.

Dear God, we thank You for the grace of repentance, and for all the suffering and death that our Savior Jesus endured for our redemption. May we always cling to You, Lord Jesus, our True Vine, for You nourish us with Your Word that makes us produce fruit that is pleasing to the Father. Amen.

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