Third Sunday of Lent
Lk 13:1-9
March 20, 2022

With a bit of online research (Google), I learned that in a favorable climate, and with proper care, a fig tree will bear a good crop about three to four years after planting. In climates like the Holy Land enjoys, mild winters and lengthy, warm summers, the fig tree is known to produce two crops in one season.

Figs are an important food source, especially in Middle Eastern countries where they are eaten fresh or dried. Figs can be brewed into an alcoholic beverage, and leaves are steeped for a tea. The fruit has medicinal uses and is rich in nutrients. The leaves are used to spice food and are even fed to livestock.

The tree is also grown for shade, which is critical in hot, arid desert climates, and is prized in ornamental gardens. Fig fruit is an important food source for wildlife, including bees. Moreover, its seed is dispersed by birds and animals, accounting for its propagation.

The root system does not grow deep into the earth, but rather, it spreads out, close to the surface. Consequently, it is important to see that the topsoil does not dry out. However, too much water can “drown” the tree that needs to be watered slowly and deeply about every two weeks. If the leaves start to shrivel and dry out, the tree needs water. In other words, it demands attention and care.

The people questioning Jesus about sin and punishment…the first part of this Gospel passage…knew all of this from lived experience. His listeners, whose quality of life was, in many ways, dependent on the fig tree, were familiar with the tree’s growing patterns and many uses. Moreover, they quite likely appreciated the reluctance to cut down a tree that hadn’t produced in three years.

It only stands to reason that they would easily grasp the meaning of His little parable and quickly make the connection with their spiritual lives. We, who are acquainted with figs by way of the cookie or the occasional jar of fancy jam, might need a moment.

The imagery is a brilliant reminder of how short our earthly lives are…and how little time we have…no matter how long we might live…to produce good fruit.

All who heard the parable, maybe even sitting under the shade of a fig tree at the time, must have thought of the countless ways their good deeds could nourish and nurture and support life in their home, neighborhood, or synagogue. The little story might also have caused them to think about ways that they could better care for their spiritual lives to promote an abundance of good deeds. Finally, it might well have occurred to people who were living among and dependent upon fig trees, that the seeds of goodness spread and multiply.

Much of the wisdom of the story might be lost on those of us who may not have even seen a fig tree. Still, the most hopeful note comes at the conclusion. The Gardner argues for a reprieve!

Christ The Good Shepherd is also The Good Gardener. Lent is the opportunity to do what is necessary to make good use of the extra time He has earned for us. So…as we approach the midpoint of Lent, consider what more you might do during this time to ensure a fruitful crop…or even two!