“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, ’May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it.” (Mk 11: 12-14)
Is our Lord being “unreasonable” here, with regard to the fig tree? I mean, it’s not even “the season for figs”! And yet He curses this tree, for not having any figs, out-of-season! So yes, He’s being unreasonable, with regard to the tree.
But the fig tree is a tree, after all, and is not informed or affected by what the Lord says. So He is saying what He says, actually, for the benefit of “his disciples,” which is why the key to understanding this passage is the final, apparently superfluous, verse: “And his disciples heard it.” In other words, our Lord is demonstrating something to “his disciples,” about human-like, not tree-like, fruitlessness.
This morning I gather from this passage, which is part of my Church’s reading for today, that I should always be ready to be “fruitful” for my Lord, both “in” and “out” of season. That is to say, – even when I am “down,” or not “in the mood” (or “season”) for bringing “fruit” in His eyes, – like responding kindly to the kind word of my co-worker in the hallway, even if I am “down”; or smiling at the old lady in the elevator; or thanking my child for the “artwork” he or she has pinned to the refrigerator; or making the effort to cook, for my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse a meal, even if I’m not all that good at cooking; – whatever it is, which I am not “in the mood” for, or “in season” for, I am still called to “produce” that very little fruit of a response to (God’s) love, that is like a little “fig.” I mean to say, I should never give up and do nothing, even when I feel I am “off season,” – because I can always do a little bit of… something. Otherwise, my loving Lord can’t find “anything on” me, with which He can connect, in His perfect, absolute love for me.
So let me respond to love with love, both “in” and “out” of season, whether I am “in” or “out” of the mood to do so. I know, the fig tree could not possibly have done that, in the Gospel-narrative. But I can, actually, do that, (i.e., be “in” love with others) both “in” and “out” of season, because I am not a tree, but a human being. And I can, as a human being, “abide” in communion with the One-and Only, human-and-divine God-Man, Jesus Christ, Who is above-and-beyond me, in this whole business of fruitfulness and love. “Abide in me, and I in you,” He says to me. “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15: 4-5) Thank You, Lord, that I can do something, in communion with You, rather than nothing, on my self-isolated own.