The Fig Tree and the Fruitfulness

Fr. Ronald Melcum Vaughan

In the Gospel of St. Mark chapter 11 verses 12 onwards we find a rather bizarre incident of Jesus demanding from the fig tree fruits out of season. Moreover not having found any fruits but leaves alone Jesus curses the fig tree to be doomed.

Jesus knew it quite well that out of seasons trees do not produce fruits. Then why such irrationality? Was Jesus irritated by the pangs of hunger? This incident could be applied to the disciples and their response to the call of Jesus. A few things become quite clear from this.

Jesus did not look for fruits to supervise if it had fruits, but rather Gospel tells us that he was truly hungry. Our fruitfulness is tested when there is a genuine need or a well planned divine intention. Our faithfulness is often proved when the situation is demanding and our resources run dry. We can be men torn apart by the dilemma and confusions of life. However, in life we must remain adhered to the teachings of the Gospel. So our suffering, paucity, failure, downfall, sickness, loss of a beloved, shattering of a dream, unforeseen troubles etc. are nothing but a time in the furnace to come out as pure gold. Just as gold gets rid of its impurity so we get rid of our imperfection of faith through the trials and tribulations of our lives. We must remind ourselves that suffering is the time to be faithful and fruitful, perhaps like a fig tree out of season.

Jesus was fully aware that it was not a season for the fig tree to bear fruits. Jesus spoke quite often about the seasons and fruits in the Gospel. Yet the Lord wished that it had fruits. It means that the Lord expects his disciples to be fruitful or faithful in season and out of season. For the faithfulness there is no prescribed time and situation. Faithfulness has no vacation or excuse. Our faithfulness is not situational or time-bound. Our faithfulness need not be tested in a suitable situation or in a pre-declared time. The Lord Jesus laid a great emphasis on being alert, watchful and dutiful all the times (See Matthew 24:42ff). In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Good Samaritan is acclaimed not only for being compassionate but also for his promptness in not-so-friendly conditions. While the Priest and the Levite are denounced because of their dereliction of duties as well as their inability to see the wounded man as their neighbour or an object of ministry in an unforeseen condition. The faith of Pharisees and Levites was meant for the some trailer-made situations. We may say that their faith was seasonal. (Cf. Luke 10:30-37)

Similarly the 2 mites of a widow make the heaven ring while the fat donations of the prosperous make no impact on the Lord of all riches. The reason is that the donations of the prosperous come from their comfort zones. They have plenty and from there something is given. While the widow hands over her very security to the Lord. The widow’s faith is unconditional, i.e., I give to the Lord no matter what I will be left with. No arithmetic calculation of loss and gain is made. Such faith survives the human sense of pain and pleasure; to be or not to be; lose and gain. We may say that her faith in giving the Lord a donation was unseasonal. (Cf. Luke 21:1-4)

The Lord establishes fruitfulness in contrast with punishment. Jesus speaks extensively about the need or ‘ought to be’ fruitful disciples of the Lord in all seasons. In the discourse of the vine and the branches He clearly tells us that the Father expects us to be fruitful vine or else we are destined to perish. “Any of my branches that does not bear fruit, he breaks off; and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear even more fruit...This is how my Father is glorified - you become my disciples and bear much fruit” (John 15:2,8).

How to be fruitful all the time? It is not easy to be fruitful all the time. For sure, there are barriers in our personality that hinders us to be fruitful all the time. There are defects and our human response to the call of the Gospel is conditioned by our human limitations. However the Lord provides solutions or ammunitions to fight off the human obstacles and limitations in the same chapter of Mk. 11. “Early next morning, as they walked along the road, the disciples saw the fig tree withered to its roots. Peter then said to him, “Master, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered.” And Jesus replied, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, if you say to this mountain: Be pulled up and hurled into the sea and have no doubt in your heart but believe that what you say will happen; it will be done for you.” (MK 11:20-23). We can overcome the gray areas of our lives in which we are not able to be productive all the times by our faith. Faith is something that can heal us and remove the darkness from our lives. In the same discourse verse 24, the Lord correlates faith with prayer. “Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it and it shall be done for you.” (MK 11:24). Faith and prayer are two sides of the same coin. One who has faith will always pray and one who prays will have faith. No one can persist in prayer without faith and no one can have faith for all seasons of lives without prayer.

Hence let be faithful or fruitful or productive at all times with weapons of faith and prayers. The Lord will sustain us in our efforts to be faithful. The Lord is demanding yet compassionate. He can see the sincerity of our efforts to be fruitful all the time, he can read our hearts. Therefore let us not be dismayed or discouraged by the mountains in our lives which prevent us from being fruitful in all seasons.