February 28, 2016
"But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!"
This may make sense to you: you identify with how bad a sinner you are; how you're in deep trouble unless you get your act together! For others, this may be a little too "fire and brimstone" compared with the "Jesus loves you" you are more familiar (and maybe more comfortable) with. I assure you Jesus DOES love you. And it's for this very reason that he gives you this message today.
I've definitely been in these two different places at different times in my life. But this time while hearing the parable of the fig tree, I was touched by a message of God in my heart. Hearing about the master looking at the fig tree: barren and just taking up space, I thought to myself, "How comfortable am I to be dead and merely taking up space rather than bearing fruit?"
The Gospel Message is GOOD news, and this reading today is INDEED good news! For many of you who know Father Conrad, CFR, you have heard him say, "Jesus came not to make bad people good but to bring dead people back to life!"
In the parable, Jesus is the gardener that intercedes for us. He is cultivating the ground around us and fertilizing us. Jesus is calling us back to life and calling us to bear fruit for God and for each other. Myles Munroe said, "The greatest tragedy in life is not death, but a life without a purpose." Pier Giorgio understood this very well and understood what it meant to live without faith:
To live without faith, without a heritage to defend, without battling constantly for truth, is not to live but to 'get along'; we must never just 'get along'.
I would even add that those that just 'get along' are the 'walking dead.' "Faith without works is dead." So what is the foundation of faith? Pier Giorgio says:
Each of you knows that the foundation of our faith is charity. Without it, our religion would crumble. We will never be truly Catholic unless we conform our entire lives to the two commandments that are the essence of the Catholic faith: to love the Lord, our God, with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves... With charity, we sow the seeds of that true peace which only our faith in Jesus Christ can give us by making us all brothers and sisters. I know that this way is steep, and difficult, and strewn with thorns, while at first glance the other path seems easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying. But the fact is, if we could look into the hearts of those who follow the perverse paths of this world, we would see that they lack the serenity that comes to those who have faced a thousand difficulties and who have renounced material pleasure to follow God's law.
We are three Sundays away from Palm/Passion Sunday and about half way through Lent. This Lent, what we turn away from must not be a stopping point but a starting point. If we are fasting from time from Facebook, are we in turn giving that time to God, to our friends, to neighbors, or strangers? If we are giving up sweets, is there food that we can offer instead to those who spirits could be lifted by our generosity at this time? Or if the sacrifice is producing great amounts of struggle and temptation, are we consciously turning that over to God and in our small way uniting it with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross? We can pray at this very moment, "Jesus, help me to bear fruit. Help me to do the will of the Father which can be accomplished only by You alone."
I pray you all have a blessed Lent, that God may draw you closer to Him and that as you walk the way to Calvary with Jesus, you may give him all your sorrows, your anxieties, the things that are keeping you in bondage, that they might be crucified with Him; that you might die to yourself. And that on Easter you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But, in doing so, recognize how you too live anew.