Repentance and God’s Mercy

Luke 13: 1-9
Eph 4:7-16 / Psa 122

For three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it use up the ground?
(Luke 13:7)

May the Lord show us how to serve
With compassion and true leadership;
With His Spirit help us to deserve
The Commission of His Stewardship.

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “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?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘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

Today’s Gospel message tells us about the redeeming power of repentance, and the patience and mercy of God. In the old Testament of the Bible, we read about the innumerable sufferings that befell the Chosen People of God: their exiles to Egypt, Babylon and Assyria, the destruction of Jerusalem and its great temple, and even the split of the Israelites into Judah and Israel, all because of their infidelity to their Covenant with Yahweh God. It seemed then that “fire and brimstone” were the only way to bring the wayward Israelites back to their right senses. But in the new teachings of Jesus, He gave new meaning to the phenomenon of suffering, as He himself was going to undergo its pangs, sinless though He was. Suffering, according to Jesus, is not necessarily caused by sin, but may only be a process of cleansing or purging. Thus, in the case of those Galileans slaughtered by Pilate, or the eighteen who were killed in Siloam, their tragedy was not the result of sin. In His case, it was all for the sake of our redemption. But those who persist in their sinful ways and not avail of God’s grace of repentance will certainly not be spared of a punishment far worse than the sufferings here on earth (eternal damnation).

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 feel self-rightious and unrepentant, and do not bear fruit after all that He has done for us, then we truly deserve the axe. After all, what is the sense in raising a healthy tree if it does not bear fruit? It is better to cut it down than have it using up the fertility of the earth. If we have received a commission from the Lord, and our spiritual formation is complete, then it is time to step out and share our new life with others who are still searching for some meaning in their lives. If Jesus, Who was sinless, could undergo suffering for our salvation, shouldn’t we who were sinners bear witness about our sinfulness, our repentance, the forgiveness and mercy of God, and our salvation? This much we can do to be considered fruitful.

May we always cling to You, Lord Jesus, our True Vine, for You nourish us with Your Word and make us produce fruit that is pleasing to the Father. Amen.

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