Saturday, October 22, 2011

If You Do Not Repent, You Will All Perish

October 22, 2011

Saturday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the spirit is life and peace. For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God; it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:6-9

'"For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?" He said to him in reply, "Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:7-9


"O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me" (Ps. 70:2)


In one breath of today's Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we will be destroyed. In the very next breath, he is telling us the story of the kind gardener who will nurse the fig tree back to life and productivity. How do we reconcile these messages?

Jesus as the Gardener is there to save the fig tree from being destroyed. Clearly Jesus is living the life of the Spirit and is concerned with life and with peace, not with destruction.

The connecting tissue for me is the line about repentance. Jesus the gardener is telling us -- his branches -- that if we do not change the direction in which we seek happiness, then we shall shrivel up like this fig tree. He is willing to nurse us back to life in the spirit, if we are willing to submit our lives (lives now dedicated to the flesh) to Him. Jesus is willing to make us His own if we are willing to make us His.

Such a transformation requires both of us -- our humble surrendering our will and Jesus' generous act of saving our spirits. What shall it be? Surrender and change or grow under your own control and die?

This choice reminds me of Phil Russell's favorite passage from the Bible during our preparation for the Men's 108th Cursillo. "I am the vine. You are the branches." What does it mean to be a branch of Jesus' vine? One might see that a vine grows when the branch nourishes it. A vine does not have life separate from the branch. If it is cut off, it will surely wither and die. That is just a biological fact.

What does it matter? If we are cut off from Jesus and a life in which He dwells in us, then we might as well not go on. If on the other hand, we dedicate our life to growing in the direction the branch determines, then we will live according to the rules of the branch (the two great commandments?), and will bear much fruit.

I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)


We will make little impact on the world if we live for ourselves.

Make A Difference Day 2012 is on October 23. That is tomorrow. According to its web site, "Make A Difference Day is celebrated each year on the 4th Saturday in October. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, it is the nation’s largest day of volunteering, thanks to the passion of millions of people like you. Together with long-standing partner HandsOn Network, the generosity of Newman’s Own and hundreds of carrier newspapers, USA WEEKEND rallies millions in a single day to help change the world."

That is a great way to get people out of the "man cave" watching football and into the streets helping people. It is a great way to introduce children and teens to the American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor. However, for Christians, every day is "Make a Difference" Day. God stands ready to come to our assistance if we only let Him enter into our lives. One way to open that door is in helping our neighbors whether or not we get an award from Gannet Foundation or not.