Sunday, 9 November 2008

Figs



In Matthew's Gospel, something happens after the money changers and dove sellers have had their tables and chairs removed from the Temple. Jesus goes off to Bethany for the night, then on his return to Jerusalem something quite shocking happens. I personally have always found this far more puzzling than the incident with the money changers in the Temple.

And leaving them, he went out of the city into Bethania, and remained there. And in the morning, returning into the city, he was hungry. And seeing a certain fig tree by the way side, he came to it, and found nothing on it but leaves only, and he saith to it: May no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And immediately the fig tree withered away.

Matthew 21: 17-19


I think the order may be different in Mark (this may have happened before the incident at the Temple), but that is not the point. This is more than just a device to show the disciples how little faith they have. Something much bigger seems to be going on.

When we hear about Jesus being thirsty, he meets the woman at the well and so much grace ensues. Here we hear about Jesus being hungry (did Martha not feed him well enough in Bethany- unlikely!). What sort of hunger is it? Is this some sort of hunger for justice and God's will?

When a fruit tree fails to behave like a fruit tree, is it not violating God's law? The tree is inanimate, it can not be saved, yet it can be corrupted. Does this tree is someway represent the "culture of death", to appear to be living yet to lack any fruitfulness whatsoever? It is almost as if the tree is possessed. There is more than a hint of exorcism about this event. Elsewhere Jesus exhorts us to care year on year for the barren fruit tree until we are absolutely certain it cannot produce fruit. I remain puzzled by this passage from the Gospels.

One thing is certain, we cannot go around driving the chatterboxes and gossips out of the pews on Sunday (like moneychangers from the Temple), nor can we kill stone dead some unjust anti-life law (like a barren fig tree)without another one springing up to take its place. We are too puny and sinful to behave like Christ. When we get angry that God's will is not being done we must be so careful that we don't become as ugly and abhorrent as the barren fig tree itself. In our anger, ugliness will produce no good fruit. We must put our faith in Christ, let his light shine through us and let him get on with the dirty work.

3 comments:

AutumnRose said...

"When we get angry that God's will is not being done we must be so careful that we don't become as ugly and abhorrent as the barren fig tree itself. In our anger, ugliness will produce no good fruit. We must put our faith in Christ, let his light shine through us and let him get on with the dirty work. "

Amen, Rita!
Oh, you put it so eloquently, and so Biblically, when all I seem to be able to do is stumble inarticulately. Thanks for this!

AR xx

Irene said...

This passage continues to puzzle me also, it appears so opposite to the rest of the gospels. I have seen many attempts to explain it, but never have I been completely comfortable.

As for the chatterboxes and gossips, I fear God expects us to welcome them in with the rest of us sinners, and hope that the Holy Ghost can get through to them.

mum6kids said...

Sometimes I really DO get angry, but usually (not always) it is tempered by a deep deep sadness.
I was so angry over the death of Baby P and the fact that Christians supported a pro-baby killer polititian; and yet what I really felt was sad to the point of pain.
I think there is a place for anger-and anger that blazes with God's love. It's more alive than the fig tree that just stands there and offers no sustenence to anyone.

But you are right we must also be gentle to those chatter boxes in church and others. Many of them, in my experience, are trying to lead good Catholic lives.