The Gospel selection from Luke for this Third Sunday of Lent comes in two parts. The first part speaks of two different tragedies that are recent in the minds of those in the crowd following Jesus. The second part of the Gospel passage is a parable from our Lord concerning a fig tree.
In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus tells the story of an orchard owner who comes upon a fig tree in his orchard and states that he wants the tree cut down because it has not produced fruit. This is not a rash decision on the part of the orchard owner because this is the third year that the tree has not produced fruit. The gardener intercedes asking the owner for more time to work with the tree. If the tree still does not bear fruit then it will be cut down.
This parable shows us the patience of God the Father and the mercy that he extends to us sinners, but it’s a mercy that is limited in time. The tree is given time but it must produce fruit. The tree will be helped by the gardener. The gardener is the Lord Jesus who intercedes on our behalf. He seeks to show us the way and he freely gives us grace to help us produce fruitful lives that are worthy of our Father in heaven. We must remember that the time to produce this fruit is limited to this earthly life, however long that will be, which brings us back to the first part of the Gospel passage.
Jesus speaks of two events at the beginning of this Gospel passage. The first is an atrocity committed against a group of Galileans by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. The second event is the collapse of a tower at Siloam that kills eighteen people. Neither event is a direct act willed by God but rather they are events that are allowed by his permissive will; in other words, things happen. The first act is of one person choosing to cause harm and the second is an accident; neither act directly involve action on the part of God.
Brining the two parts of the Gospel together reminds us that we must be about producing the fruit of the Kingdom of God in our lives. God expects this of us and he has a right to that expectation. We can only be about this work in the present life; the same is true for repentance and conversion as they can only happen in this life as well. None of us knows how long this present life will last because we do not know what tomorrow might bring or if there will even be a tomorrow for us. Therefore, we must be about the business of the Kingdom of God right now! A true disciple does not procrastinate in fulfilling the will of God in their life, but allows the work of the Kingdom to be a guiding force in their everyday living.
As always, the Saints have wisdom to impart to us and I will leave you with a word from two of them. St. John Bosco tells us “do not put off till tomorrow the good you can do today.” St. Augustine admonishes us to know that “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but he has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.”