The parable of the fig tree has two sides. On the one hand, it speaks of God’s great Patience. On the other hand, it can be a criticism of our lack of response to His Mercy.
The first is obvious. The owner wants his gardener to cut down the fig tree that has not produced fruit for three years. It’s wasting valuable nutrients and it makes sense to remove it. The gardener, however, petitions the owner for more time and allow him to give it more TLC in hopes it will bear fruit again.
God is the same with us. He doesn’t give up on us. His grace is always available to us, providing the spiritual nutrients we need to grow healthy and produce fruit, but He doesn’t force Himself on us. Just as the nutrients of the soil do not force their way into plant’s root system, so God’s Grace is available for our spiritual roots to absorb God’s Life, strengthening our souls to grow and produce fruit for His Praise and Glory.
The other side of the parable is not quite as obvious and a little more difficult to digest because it focusses on me. If I am like the plant that is unproductive then I am exhausting the soil. I am wasting God’s Grace. I am not producing fruit but, like the gardener, God’s patient Mercy does not give up on me. Like the plant, however, I must do my part. I must respond to His Mercy, take in the nutrients He offers and respond to His TLC.
Notice that before Jesus tells the parable He refers to two current events and repeats an important admonition at the end of each. Twice in today’s Gospel He says, “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.” Repentance is the fertilizer that activates our root system for absorbing God’s nutrients for our spiritual growth and wellbeing. Repentance is the first step.
Yes, God is Merciful. He will not cut me down. His patience and care for me is ever present. He is always waiting for my response. For my part, I must decide if I want to produce fruit or continue to exhaust the soil.