3rd Sunday of Lent—Year C
God is Willing to Get in the Dirt for Us
My first reaction to the parable of the fig tree was that the tree owner was God, the gardener was Jesus, and the fig tree was me. In that reading, Jesus intercedes with God to give me another year to grow fruit. Thank you, Jesus! But then I reread it. What if I’m the owner, God and Jesus are the gardeners, and the fig tree is everybody else?
I want to see fruit, and I want to see it fast, and I want to see production everywhere I look. If there’s no fruit, then the solution is to cut it down and start over. A diet isn’t working, it’s the problem— throw it out and find a new one. The party in power isn’t doing things right; it’s completely wrong— vote them out and replace them. A homily doesn’t sit right, the priest doesn’t know what he’s talking about— find a new church. An employee isn’t performing, send them packing. We operate on one speed and we expect to see results. If we don’t, we just want to cut the fallow down.
We forget that God’s time isn’t our time. God isn’t in a rush. God sees the fruits inherent in development. God also sees the interconnectedness of everything. He knows that if something isn’t producing fruit, there are many reasons why.
In this reading of the parable, God and Jesus tell me, “No, wait. Don’t throw that person out. Let us do a little more work. Let us work through these things with the person—they just need some more fertilization.” In other words: don’t rush. Give things time. Another translation of that? Don’t judge. You don’t know what’s going on beneath the surface of someone else.
God and Jesus are willing to get in the dirt with us. They are willing to work with us, no matter how dirty they have to get—even if it requires spreading manure. They want us to produce fruit. Even more, they know we can produce fruit. We just have to be given the time and the proper nutrients to do so. What if I’m the one rushing everybody else, the one who just wants to move to the next thing? What if I slow down and focus on development, my own in conjunction with God and the development of others when it is appropriate? In a year’s time, who knows what might happen…the one I’m ready to ditch might be productive and I might even produce more fruit myself.