“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, ‘Look, 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” (Luke 13:6-9). The farmer has worked hard to nurture the tree and he does not want to waste his fruit of labour and hence asks for more time from the owner of the vineyard.
We are like this beautiful fig tree planted in the vineyard. When we do not produce the desired fruit the Lord gives the command to cut this fig tree and the Holy Mother Church begs the Lord to give us one more year, one more Lenten season so that we can repent and return to the Lord. the merciful God who does not want any of us to be destroyed and with arms open wide waits for our return and has given us this Lenten season to reflect, repent and renew.
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday where the priest blesses us with ashes, a symbolic reminder that we are mud and we return to mud. It is an invitation to each one of us to reflect and repent. Just like St John the Baptist invited the crowd who had gathered to receive baptism; the Holy Church invites us too. Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Lk 3: 9-10). And when people from different strata of society asks him the question, “What then shall we do?” John the Baptist instructs them in the ways of the Lord. We see the reference of the rich man who came to Jesus and said I follow all the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ response to this rich man is this, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” We go on to read that the rich man went away sad as he was not willing to do what Jesus asked him to (Mk 10: 20-22).
The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to scrutinize our lives and find our short comings and make reparation for our failures. We are faultless in our own eyes but when we scan our lives through the eyes of Jesus we are but full of faults. We see in Luke 21: 61-62 how one look for Jesus was enough for Peter to remember his sins. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” The Church invites us to go through a Peter like experience during this Lenten season. We need to enrich this season through prayers, fasting and alms giving. The temptation of this world is often taking us away from the Spirit of God and path of repentance and it is at these moments we need to recall the words of Jesus shared on his way to Calvary. “And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Lk 23: 28). The rise in sins and our wayward living is leading our generation and the future generation to a world of no return which is filled with sins. Disobedience and arrogance has become a symbol of the youth. Family prayers and Holy Sacraments have become a thing of the past.
The habit that we form in our childhood becomes a foundation for our future lives. The prayer, ‘Suffering of Jesus strengthen me’ taught by my mother in my childhood had very little meaning at that time but when now I understand how that prayer has strengthened many families to overcome their sufferings in their family life. I underwent a small surgery recently and it was done without anesthesia because of which I was under tremendous pain for 3 hours and it was this prayer which provided me the strength to bear my pain. Only the suffering of Jesus can help us overcome the sufferings of this world and all the martyrs’ bears witness to this fact. It was only the suffering Jesus who became their strength when they went through physical and mental tortures.
We read about Stephen the first martyr of the church in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Stephen was tortured and was killed by throwing stones even at the time of sufferings his eyes were turned towards heaven. (Acts 7:55)
We commemorate the suffering of Jesus during this season of Lent. Let the sufferings of Jesus be an inspiration for us to repent and lead a life renewed in spirit and by being part of His suffering. Meditating on the suffering of Jesus made St Francis of Assisi another Christ and St Peter the rock and foundation of Catholic Church. Let us also meditate on his suffering and reject the path of sin and lead a life pleasing to God.