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Friday, 29 May 2015

The Meaning of the Fig Tree

Many Catholics seem perplexed by today's Gospel reading. The message is relatively simple. We need to be cooperating with grace when things are good and smooth, and when things are difficult and rough.

It is easy to be holy when everything is going "my way". But, when one's will is being crossed and when one is not in a physically comfortable place, the real depth of a person's grace-filled life can be revealed.

Three weeks into chaos, movement, "mess", as the Pope would state, I find that God wants me and others who are truly Christian to be able to respond in love and calmness to any situation.

Turning to God immediately in the mind, making a rational act to cooperate with grace makes one "faithful in little things".  Daily, we are in these situations and one is shown the limitations of holiness in certain situations.

Pettiness seems to be a common sin we can all fall into daily--getting upset about the small things, the very small things, instead of letting go and seeing the big picture. In good times and in stressful times, one must be ready to be loving and always take the humble position.

Mark 11:11-26

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and came into the temple; and after looking around at everything, He left for Bethany with the twelve, since it was already late.
12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.

Jesus Drives Money Changers from the Temple

15 Then they *came to Jerusalem. And He entered the temple and began to drive out those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling [a]doves;16 and He would not permit anyone to carry [b]merchandise through the temple.17 And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ [c]den.”18 The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
19 When evening came, [d]they would go out of the city.
20 As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21 Being reminded, Peter *said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus *answered saying to them, Have faith in God. 23 Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. 24 Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. 25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. 26 [[e]But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”]

Some people ask why this particular fig tree was cursed by Christ and died, especially used by Christ as an example for all of us Catholics to see what would happen to us if we are not producing fruit when God expects us to do so.
Why must we pay attention to this image from the Scriptures? 
Christ demonstrates the justice of God by cursing the fig tree-if it has no fruit, it is already dead. God gives all people sufficient grace for salvation, but He gives efficacious grace freely to those who He has deemed will use this grace.

Here is Garrigou-Lagrange on efficacious grace, which is a bit of a repeat on this blog, but a necessary reminder and timely today.

In the New Testament, too, we find: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Therefore grace is not rendered efficacious through our consent; rather, on the contrary, without the grace of Christ we do not consent to the good conducive to salvation. “My sheep hear My voice . . . and I give them life everlasting and they shall not perish forever, and no man shall pluck them out of My hand. That which My Father hath given Me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them out of the hand of My Father” (ibid., 10:27-29). That is to say, the souls of the just are in the hand of God, nor can the world with all its temptations nor the demon snatch the elect from the hand of God. Cf. St. Thomas’ commentary on this passage.  It reiterates the words of St. Paul: “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or famine . . . or the sword?. . . But in all these things we overcome, because of [or through] Him that hath loved us. . . . For I am sure that neither death nor life . . . nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39). St. Thomas comments here that either St. Paul is speaking in the person of the predestinate or, if of himself personally, then it was thanks to a special revelation. Elsewhere St. Paul writes: “Not that we are sufficient to think anything of ourselves, as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is from God” (II Cor. 3:5). If we are not sufficient to think anything conducive to salvation of ourselves, with still greater reason is this true of giving our consent, which is primary in the role of salvation. Again, “For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two-edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. . . . All things are naked and open to His eyes” (Heb. 4:12 f.). Cf. St. Thomas’ commentary: “The word of God is said to be effectual on account of the very great power and infinite effective force which it possesses. For by it are all things made: ‘By the word of the Lord the heavens were established’ (Ps. 32:6). . . . It effects in the innermost being of things . . . all our works . . . In the order of causes it is to be observed that a prior cause always acts more intimately than a subsequent cause.”

Be grateful daily for the graces which God has given you, even the grace to study and follow blogs. 
God does not ask the impossible. All are given sufficient graces to convert, to accept Him as Saviour. But, God also expects us to use the graces He generously gives to those to whom He has chosen to join Him in heaven.

In Rom. 9:14-16 we read: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice in God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses: I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy; and I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy. So then it is not of him that willeth nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (cf. Exod. 33:19)1 To the Philippians, St. Paul writes: “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to His good will” (2:13); hence the soul should fear sin or separation from God, the author of salvation; cf. St. Thomas’ commentary.