In Luke 13:1-9, Jesus tells the story of a barren fig tree and also asks the question of whether one sin is worse than another depending on the outcome of one’s punishment. The two tales themselves don’t seem necessarily linked at first, but by breaking down their core teachings, it turns out these two passages build upon each other.
Jesus asks the Disciples if one set of Galileans who suffered the plight of Pilate were worse sinners that those who haven’t. While asking this, Jesus states that unless every person repents for their sins then everyone, no matter how they die, will die the same way. This teaching is meant to show that only through repentance and asking for forgiveness does one truly absolve themselves of their sins and provide meaning to their life.
Subsequently, the allegory of the fig tree ties perfectly with Jesus’ previous teaching on sin. For three years, the tree has not blossomed with figs, and the owner threatens to cut the tree down. A farmhand asks the owner for one more year to bear fruit and states that he will fertilize the tree. He acknowledges that if after that year the tree does not bear fruit then the owner can cut it down. The fertilizer and care the worker is promising can be seen as the act of repenting—that a life without asking for forgiveness can be as empty as a barren fig tree. In order to find the fruit of life, we have to work to better ourselves, just like a fig tree needs fertilization to bear fruit.
This Lenten season we can take the opportunity to actively work to better who we are by reflecting on how we apologize, asking those we have wronged for forgiveness, as well as asking God for forgiveness. By doing this, we will improve who we are as people and bloom with the fruit of an enriched life.
Appointed readings for today: Exodus 3:1-15, Psalm 63:1-8, Luke 13:1-9