Next day as they were leaving Bethany, he felt hungry. Seeing a fig tree in leaf some distance away, he went to see if he could find any fruit on it, but when he came up to it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs. And he addressed the fig tree. ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again’ he said. And his disciples heard him say this.
Mark (Chapter 11)
I know I’ve written about the barren fig tree before. But like the Transfiguration, there seems to be so much you can get out of this event in the life of the Apostles. Yesterday at Mass it was the turn of the version in Mark’s Gospel (Chap 11: 11-26). Father, in his short homily, said it all seemed rather unfair on the fig tree, after all, it wasn’t the season for figs. In fact Mark stresses how out of season a fig would have been. Our sympathies for the tree seem to reflect the shock of the writer of the gospel to the events that unfolded when the tree was cursed with such dramatic consequences.
There is one interpretation we can not put on this story; the interpretation that says Jesus was in a bad mood (after all, this event is in the same time span as the cleansing of the temple) and He did it out of spite. Spite, can never be a motive for the works of God.
What does that leave us with? Here is my humble suggestion.
God made the tree, He made it to bear fruit, as a work of God it was made to serve God through being of service to his creatures. Yes, some trees need a bit of nurturing and are reluctant or too sickly to fulfill their promise, but the gardener perseveres season after season. This tree however is different. When Our Lord is hungry, it means so much more than a hunger for physical nourishment. Our Lord was hungry to show His disciples something. Perhaps events could have gone one of two ways. Our Lord could have found figs on the tree and still preached to them about faithful prayer being able to move mountains. Instead Our Lord found a tree that had forgotten who had created it, a tree that would not serve the Lord. The lord had to show it who was boss.
So where does that leave us?
How often does God desire things from us in season and out of season? Sarah and Elizabeth both bore rich fruit out of season. Their desire throughout their lives was to serve the Lord and he rewarded their good works and good wishes out of season. We too, I’d suggest, should immerse ourselves in Pentecostal fecundity to bring forth the fruits God desires of us. The consequences of not doing so may be unpleasant.
St Rita, knew all about the significance of out of season figs and roses and was rewarded with both.