HOMILY: Another Lesson From the Fig Tree

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | November 14/15, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

Have any of you actually seen a fig plucked from a tree?

I know I hadn’t.  The closest I had ever gotten was eating a Fig Newton from Giant.  But that all changed this summer, when I went to visit my cousin and his wife out in California.

After arriving at his apartment, my cousin asked if I would like something to eat.  Hungry from the flight, I eagerly accepted, only to watch him place a large bowl of misshapen, ugly pieces of fruit in front of me.

“Have a fig!”

Now, to be honest, they didn’t look appetizing.  So I began to finger through the produce, searching for one that looked somewhat normal.

Then I found it.  It was the perfect fig.  Round, smooth, and a beautiful color.

I grabbed it and took a huge bite . . . Only to spit out a mouth full of rotten fruit.

It seems that my judgment of figs had some work to do.

But I couldn’t help and think about that experience after hearing the readings from this weekend.

For I have come to believe that a fig is an apt metaphor for each of us as we approach the end of another Church year.

See, in our texts from today we are called to be aware of the signs and symbols that will herald the coming of a new age.  The end of life as we know it.

But in reading the signs of the times, it is easy for us to fixate on the externals, the outward appearance of our lives.

We look at the skin of our own figs and we don’t always like what we see.

Some of our figs appear malnourished.

They have been deprived of sunlight as we have grappled with the darkness of doubts and depression, grief and loss.

They have failed to get their necessary water and nutrients as we have pushed ourselves too hard and stretched ourselves too thin.  We have worked too hard.  Money has been tight.  And we still feel underappreciated.

Some of our figs are pretty bruised on the outside.

We have had our share of struggle over this past year.  Words have been shared that have deeply wounded us.  We have had our hearts broken.  We have suffered the slights and petty gossip of others.  We have been used and abused by those who should know better.

We have also wounded ourselves by the decisions we have made.  We have been the one to hurt another by our callous words, our vengeful spite, our stubborn refusal to see another’s point of view.

Even those of us who are generally happy and content with our lives at the moment can still miss the point.

Which is that our call to follow Christ is concerned with what is inside us.  The fruit that we are choosing to bear in the circumstances of our life, whatever those may be.

Yes, our figs may be malnourished.

But have we still chosen to believe even in the midst of doubt?

Have we still chosen to cling to hope even when the grief seems overwhelming?  When the promise of new life seems to have died with the one we loved.

Have we still sought joy even in the darkness?

Have we cultivated patience, generosity, kindness even in the midst of our hectic lives that seem to demand too much?

Yes our figs may be bruised.

But have we chosen to forgive those who have wounded us?

Have we chosen to find the courage to ask for forgiveness, to admit that we were wrong, to confess that we are not perfect?

Yes, our figs may be looking just fine.

But have we chosen to be grateful for these blessings?

Have we chosen to share of our abundance with those that have too little?

Another Church year is rapidly drawing to a close.  But the invitation that marks our lives as Christians is an ongoing call.

Are we willing to allow Christ to work with us to transform our lives into a bountiful harvest for the Lord?

No matter what our figs may look like, may they taste of the goodness of the Lord.

May God be Praised.

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