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There was a man who received a nice inheritance. He made a donation to our seminary. We were grateful, and so I invited him over, and I showed him around the seminary… this is where the seminarians pray, this is where they eat, over here is where they study. As we walked through the refectory, he saw the fig tree in a large pot. At the time, one of the priests potted his fig tree and brought it in the house for the winter. When the benefactor saw it, he went over to it and said, “Isn’t that too bad. I said, “What is wrong”? He said, “This tree is not going to grow any figs.” I said, “Why not”? He said, “Because you should have left it outside this winter so it can die. It needs to lose all its leaves. If the leaves don’t fall off, all of the energy and the resources from the ground from the spring growth will be used to feed for all these leaves, and there will not be any energy left to make figs.” I thought, “Oh, that is how fig trees work.”
I think that is why God uses fig tree analogies so often in the Bible. Sometimes we have so much stuff, so many issues, and such difficult problems in our lives that all our energy goes into the “leaves” and not into producing fruit.
One day, I walked by St. Clement and took a look at the flower garden in front of the church sign. I immediately noticed a large sumac growing in front blocking the wording. It was not there a few days ago. My neighbor, who helps with the gardening, was there and I said, “Where did the sumac come from?” He pointed across the street to a sumac tree and said, “A bird probably was over there eating its lunch and then came over here and sat on your sign to digest, and did his thing.” I responded, “How did it get that big so quickly”?
I gave the plight of the sumac seed some thought. I pictured the bird sitting on the sign. Then the seed falls from the bird landing on a bed of soft peat moss mixed with a generous amount of lobster compost that I got for half price from my friend at the nursery. There the seed lies, basking in the morning sun. Then about noontime, it is showered with rain. “Oh, what is this I taste?” says the seed. “Miracle Grow.” No wonder the sumac popped up so quickly. I have the best soil in the city. I give my flowers everything it needed to be productive. God likewise gives us everything we need to be productive.
Jesus gives us a parable about a fig tree. He said that there was an owner who went to get figs from the fig tree but there were no figs. So he told the gardener: for three years I have been coming to this fig tree and have found no figs. Cut it down.” The gardener said, “Hold it, let me take care of it for a year. I will dig around it, put it in a nice bed of topsoil mixed with lobster compost. I will water it with Miracle Grow and prune its branches. I will give it everything it needs to produce fruit. If you do not get any figs, then you can cut it down.”
If you ever walk over to a fig tree, look behind the leaves and see if any figs are growing before harvest. If there are not, then the tree is not healthy. The tree may look healthy because from the outside because it has lots of leaves, but it does not use its resources appropriately. That is why Jesus was upset when he went into the Temple. The Temple looked healthy, but when he got inside, people were buying, selling, changing money, making restorations. All the energy was mismanaged, and the Temple was not bearing fruit. The Temple was the place of God’s presence where all the nations could gather and worship the One God. That was not happening. Jesus uses the fig tree to show us that God gives us everything we need to produce. So we’d better deliver.Back to All Homilies