May 27, 2021
(Sir.44:1,9-13; Ps.149:1-6,9; Mk.11:11-26)
“They are as though they had not lived,
they and their children after them.”
This line from Sirach could refer well to the Jewish nation symbolized by the fig tree “withered to its roots.” For “never again shall anyone eat of [its] fruits”; its temple now destroyed shall never be rebuilt. And yet Sirach speaks not of those who have perished in sin, and so are never to be known again in the sight of God, but of “godly men” of Jewish ancestry who, though “there is no memory” of the particulars of their actions in time – as there is with the great patriarchs and prophets of old – yet are of the race of those “whose virtues have not been forgotten”: the memory of their goodness lives on in the heart of God, and “through God’s covenant with them their family endures.”
The covenant is removed from the hands of the Jewish people. This is indicated clearly in our gospel today not only in the withered fig tree, but in Jesus’ driving out those who had made their station in His Father’s temple. These shall be replaced by the Lord’s appointed servants, and the Church shall be built where the temple once stood. But this does not mean that the godly deeds of the godly men under the covenant of old are forgotten now that the New Covenant has been instituted; nor does it mean those in His Church are beyond reproach.
Let us look more closely at the Lord’s interaction with the fig tree, for it can teach us much. First, Jesus “felt hungry” – He desires our souls. Then He saw “a fig tree some distance off” – far removed are we from His sacred presence. He is attracted by its “foliage” – it has the appearance of fruit and life. But “when He reached it He found it had nothing but leaves…” There is no fruit upon it to satisfy His hunger; and so for its uselessness He curses it to dust. As He has done with the faithless Jews, so will He do with the faithless among us.
But “it was not the time for figs,” you say, as if to justify your emptiness. My brothers, in the Lord’s kingdom it is always time for figs – we in His Church are ever called to bear fruit in His name, in season and out of season: our souls are required of us this very day. And if we satisfy not God’s hunger for our fruits of prayer and charity, if we too have polluted His house with acts of “buying and selling” instead of the worship demanded of us… if we have gilded the temple to attract the eye but are utterly barren within, what shall He say when He enters our temple area? What action shall He take against those who serve as thieves of His love? They shall indeed be blotted from His Book of Life.
But those who “put [their] trust in God,” those who serve Him in spirit and in truth, shall not be forgotten by the Lord, whether their names are known in this world or not. “For the Lord loves His people, and He adorns the lowly with victory.” It is not the “acclamations from the crowd” in which Jesus puts His heart, but in doing the will of God. And so all who are like Him shall secure with Him their place in heaven. “Let the children of Zion rejoice in their King,” for none “in the assembly of the faithful” is forgotten.
O LORD, let us trust in you and rejoice in you…
let us bear fruit in your NAME.
YHWH, we pray that we shall be remembered by you, that we shall not be cast out of your Temple for making it a den of thieves, for failing to worship you as we ought. Though we not be remembered by the world, though we perform no great deed worthy of history, yet let us find room in your memory, in your heart – in your Book of Life.
The humble you look upon with favor, LORD. The godly of any age you bless. You will not remove your favor from any who remain faithful to your Word. But those who abuse their power, who take for granted your grace upon their souls, these you cannot but cast from your presence as you overturn the tables in which they trust.
Let us bear fruit for you, dear LORD, fruit that will last unto Heaven. May our prayer be made in fidelity and sincerity that we may come to praise you in your kingdom with all those of holy heart. May our glory never be blotted out.