Tragedies and calamities, due to natural causes or human cruelty, should not be seen by believers as punishment from God but as wakeup calls to be always intent on doing good.
The parable of the fig tree is so relevant that we should find it disturbing or, at least, forceful enough to jolt us out of our complacency and inactivity.
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ Luke 13:7
We should realize that the One who is looking for fruit on our “fig tree” is our Lord. He is the owner of the “orchard.” But, we should not think that, since he owns everything in the universe, he doesn’t need what we owe him. He, the source of all riches, can well afford to do without our yield, right? That would indeed be an ill-advised assumption.
The Book of Exodus (3:1-8, 13-15) gives us the reason why we might be running out of excuses for our delay in bearing fruit. The vision that Moses shares with us is most enlightening about the nature of our Lord. Like that burning bush, the Lord God is forever and ever burning with intense compassion and pity over the sorry plight of his people and of the entire world in which we live.
We, mere creatures, are occasionally moved to compassion and pity over painful situations, but only for as long as our human heart and mind can endure them. We would soon grow weary; we would burn out rapidly and turn into ashes in no time. But, perhaps, we would save our remaining emotions, resources and energies to preserve our frail self.
Not our God! He is forever and ever ablaze with unlimited, factual love for his people, especially with those who are hurting, disoriented, lost, exhausted; and so easily fooled by Satan.
The fruits that our God expects to find on us are the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness. Galatians 5:22
So it is for the sake of his people that God expects us to yield what other people on the face of the earth need so desperately. Today, the Church tells us that quite a few people have the right to part our leaves and grab and enjoy our fruit.
Here is what fruit people are looking for:
Love: it is such a rare commodity that a tragically high number of people die either a slow death from love depravation or kill themselves because love has been denied them repeatedly.
The demand for genuine love is so vast that we come across offers of counterfeited, fake love, which could be either lust or insincere concern masqueraded as love. Once the deception is exposed the let-down is usually devastating.
Joy: along with love, joy is what everybody wants because we have all been created in the image of God who is the source of true joy.
The scarcity of genuine joy is so prevalent that people resort quickly to substitutes: drugs, alcohol, casual sex, speed, pornography, hoarding, spending sprees, gambling, extravagant purchases of needless things, and so on.
Once people are hooked, it is hard to wean them from their addictions and redirect them toward the Lord, the Source of true, eternal joy.
Peace: every day we are reminded of the wounds of this world. In some age-long, festering cases we know that any attempt at reconciliation between the two factions is still an exercise in futility.
Patience: disappointed in passing joys, the world is getting more impatient by the hour and it demands quick fixes, quick satisfactions, quick solutions. For this reason, the world is ill-equipped to wait patiently for the good things in life to come to fruition.
Thus, the vicious circle of impatient demands, disappointments and search for quicker deliveries goes on and on.
Kindness: Speaking of kindness, it used to be that the personal pronoun “we” was the ideal one as “in our group,” “on our team,” “in our community;” but it has been substituted by a proliferation of “I”s with insatiable demands and an endless list of rights without corresponding duties.
However, from the Gospel’s perspective, kindness is the actualization of the attitude of Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 2: 3-4) of considering others as more important than ourselves and of placing their wellbeing ahead of our own.
Generosity: It is generated by the humble realization that what God has given us as individuals is totally undeserved especially if we keep in mind how unfair life can be.
Out of this gratitude flows the need to share so that our joy can be more intense and long-lasting in a celebration which includes many others in God’s Family.
Faithfulness: it is the last one because this is indeed a rare fruit. In our modern world it is an endangered species.
The world extols success, achievements, wealth, fame, and declares happy and fortunate anyone who has them. The world also doles out puny consolation prizes to those who root for the rich and famous and are intrigued by them. The world allows these people to dream to be one day among the fortunate ones.
For our world, faithfulness is understood as convenience that lasts as long as one’s success, achievements, wealth, and fame last. However, the fruit that we, disciples of Christ, should share with so many is the fruit of faithfulness also and, especially, in trying, difficult times, including whenever a high personal cost will be exacted.
Once again, Jesus jolts us forcefully: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
In the context of the urgent need to bear the fruit of the Spirit, “to repent” means to feel viscerally compelled to re-orient our outlook on life and on the world so as to interpret tragedies and calamities as calls to mitigate their devastation on victims through our generous productivity, in the hope that other love-driven people will do the same when we are the victims of tragedies and calamities.
This essay originally appeared on Catholic Journal