We have all read the headlines or breaking story on the evening news of the untimely death of a good person. These stories often confound us, leaving us questioning and contemplating our own end. Why do bad things happen to good people? In Luke 13:1-9 Luke recaps two incidents that happened during Jesus day. Pontius Pilate was known as a cruel leader who didn't think twice about slaughtering innocent people who posed a threat to his reign. Here Pilate murdered Galileans as they were offering sacrifice. The second incident recounts how eighteen people lost their lives when the tower of Siloam suddenly fell killing them. These were the headlines of Jesus day that he used to illustrate that sudden death may come. Jesus also points out that all those who died were no worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem.
Jesus makes a dramatic statement with the evening news as a backdrop: "Unless you repent you will all likewise parish." He then went on to tell a parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, 'Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?' And he answered him, 'Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"
This parable speaks of the mercy and patience of God. Even in those areas of our lives where we are not producing fruit, God gives us time and saturates our lives with grace with the goal of bearing fruit. We must live every day of our lives realizing that each moment is a gift from God with an intended goal. The big mistake we often make is presuming on the grace of God.
The Catechism has something to say about idea of presuming. "There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God's almighty power or his mercy (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit) (CCC 2092).
When it comes to the topic of bearing fruit we must ask ourselves two very important questions: Am I trying to correct the problems and vices in my life in the power of my own strength? Am I presuming that God is all loving and merciful therefore no matter what I do I will probably be ok with God and inherit eternal life? Both means of dealing with the problems in our life will inevitably end in fruitlessness. The reason Jesus came is to show us and empower us to live the fruitful life. Jesus said in Mark 10:27, "With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."
If we really think about it, every day God is fertilizing our lives. It may come in the form of a billboard, a comment from a friend, a homily or the small still voice in our conscience. Do not ignore his gentle nudging even though they may be a bit uncomfortable. Some of the greatest changes in my life have come as the result of an acquaintance telling me something I didn't really want to hear. Let's face it; most people do not like a little manure thrown into their lives. Every time you hear about the untimely death of someone ask yourself about the fruit in your life.
A Couple of Things to do:
1. Every day we receive a new opportunity to repent and produce fruit in our lives. Is God digging around those hardened areas of your life and attempting to put fertilizer on the areas that have not yielded fruit? Write down on a piece of paper those areas of your life that are not bearing fruit. Ask God to help you in those areas. You may want to seek out help from your pastor or a spiritual director.
2. Determine if you are presuming on the grace of God in your life and begin to look to him for change and fruitfulness. The prophet Zachariah said to king Zerubbabel, that it is 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts (Zach. 4:6).