Have you ever seen a fig tree? I haven’t. But I can tell you I’d be pretty frustrated if I had cared for a fig tree for three years and never saw one bit of fruit. I think we could all understand the man wanting his gardener to cut the tree down and give the good soil to some other plant. Having nourished the plant and watered it and put in hours pruning it and doing all the things it takes to care for a tree, nothing has come of it. Time to get rid of it and move on.
And so, one could certainly understand if God would turn out to be just like that frustrated man. Having cared for, fed, nurtured, guided and corrected us sinners, when we don’t bear fruit, certainly in his frustration, God would be justified in blotting us out and never giving us a second thought.
But God is not the frustrated man in the parable, is he? No, God is the gardener, the one who has really done all the work of nurturing, and he is amazingly patient. The gardener says of the tree, “leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.” And so God is with all of us. God gives us another chance, even when we’ve had so many chances before, even when it seems like we just aren’t worth the trouble. But God is patient.
And we are better than fig trees. We know enough to respond to the nurturing of our God. Our prayer today leads us to reflect on those ways in which we have borne fruit, and those times that we have been fruitless. We are being cultivated and fertilized yet again at this Mass, so may we be fruitful in the days and years to come.