The Fruitless Fig Tree

Mark 11: 11-26
1Ptr 4:7-13 / Ps 96:10-13

Have faith in God . . . whoever. . . does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it shall be done for him.
(Mark 11:22-23)

A fruitless fig tree may we not be,
More than death, this is our greatest fear!
May God grant us the wisdom to see
The true purpose of our being here.

On His way from Bethany with the disciples, Jesus felt hungry, and seeing a fig tree in the distance, he went to see if he could find a fruit on it. Since it was not in season, he found nothing but leaves. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it. Arriving in Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple and began to drive out those buying and selling in the temple. He overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he taught them, saying, “Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of thieves.” The chief priests and the scribes heard about it and sought a way to kill him; for they feared him, because all the multitude was astonished at his teaching. The next day, passing by the fig tree, they saw it withered to its roots. Peter remembered and said to Him, “Master, look! The fig tree which you cursed has withered.” And Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, `Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it shall be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against any one; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Reflection

God created everything to serve His purpose. In the case of the fruitless fig tree, (which was standing alone in the distance), it had to be sacrificed (withered to its roots) by the mere words of Jesus, in order for the disciples (and us) to learn that it would be better not to exist at all if one had nothing to offer for its existence. In the same way, one must be willing to sacrifice and fight for the truth and the sanctity of his principles. This is the only instance in the Gospel where Jesus employed His anger against those who were desecrating the temple of God with their commerce. Even His “outburst” had a dual purpose: to defend the sanctity of the temple, and to rouse the enmity of the chief priests and scribes, leading to His own crucifixion.

Jesus was willing to accept the consequences of His actions. On the contrary, His enemies were the ones who were afraid of Him, because He stood for the truth, which they were unwilling to face. But He did not rely on His divine powers to influence events, even though a fig tree could wither to its roots at His very command. Instead, He taught His disciples to have faith, because it is in one’s total trust in God where true power lies. (Faith can move mountains.) His message was: it is in constant communication with the Father in prayer that we can develop our faith. And the lines of communication with God will always be clear and invigorating if we bear no ill will against anyone. Against all sins, we must always have a forgiving heart. As St. Peter wrote in the first reading, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Grant me, dear God, a heart full of faith in Your love; with courage to drive out of my life what is evil and unjust; with enthusiasm to be fruitful in spreading the Good News of Christ; and forgiveness, to be worthy of His great love and sacrifice. Amen.

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