Patience with Fig Trees

The concept of “time” is one of the most perplexing questions I can think of.  We cannot possibly conceive of our lives without this “measure.”  I am sixty-six years old or, as some would say, in my sixty-seventh year.  A day consists of twenty-four hours.  We begin the thirtieth week of Ordinary Time tomorrow.  Yet, in reality time is a philosophical fiction.  It really doesn’t exist.  If you don’t believe me, watch a football game on Sunday and keep track of how long the last two minutes of the game last.

In God there is no time.  God has no past or future.  God is only now.  God is present now just as God was present to Abraham and Moses.  God is present to us just as God is present to those who will come after us.

Because the Gospels are written by fellow human beings, the concept of time does invade the Scriptures from time to time.  That is certainly the case in today’s Gospel reading which speaks of giving the fig tree another year before digging it up and throwing it away.  Fig trees mature very slowly.  Generally speaking they take as many as seven years before they will produce fruit.  After they begin to produce fruit, it can take as many as three years before the fruit is edible.  So an orchard of fig trees needs a patient farmer.  It is necessary to understand this context in order to appreciate the dilemma that the farmer faces in this parable.  He has already invested a great deal of time and effort in this tree.  Even so, the caretaker counsels giving the tree another chance during which he will spend extra effort on helping the tree to produce good fruit.

I am not the first to suggest that God is one who believes in second chances.  In fact God is the very soul of patience.  However, the span of our years is finite.  The “time” will come when we have used up our allotment.  The parable of the fig tree reminds us not to squander what time we have been given.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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