Monday, April 22, 2019

Meaning of the Parable of the Fig Tree

On the first day of Holy Week we are confronted with the powerful parable of the fig tree. This is meant to challenge all of us about our weak faith and lax way of life. Are we not like the fig tree, is our parish not like the synagogue of Jesus’ time?

The parable:
Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” Matt 21: 18-20
Elder Theophylact provides the interpretation of this parable passed on through the ages by our Church fathers.
The fig tree means the synagogue of the Jews, which has only leaves, that is, the visible letter of the law, but not the fruit of the spirit. But also every man who gives himself over to the sweetness of the present life is likened to a fig tree, who has no spiritual fruit to give to Jesus who is hungry for such fruit, but only leaves, that is, temporal appearances which fall and are gone. This man then hears himself cursed. For Christ says, Go, he accursed, into the fire. But he is also dried up; for as he roasts in the flame, his tongue is parched and withered like that of the rich man in the parable, who in his life had ignored Lazarus.
If we truly examine the way of life in a typical Orthodox parish here in America we should feel the heat. We have many leaves with our rituals and traditions but many lack the Spirit in their lives. Are we not caught up in the materialistic culture of our times and pay little attention to the way of life prescribed by the church to nurture our soul and its connection to the Holy Spirit? Are we satisfied to rely on our own will to do good while ignoring many of His teachings? Do we neglect the Orthodox way of life based on prayer and fasting, repentance, regular participation with humility in the Sacraments, studying the Holy Scriptures and writings of the Church fathers?

We need to ask ourselves, are we on the path to theosis or just self-satisfaction. Do we have only bold green leaves or do we bear fruit feeling the Holy Spirit working actively within us leading us to do His will. 

It is never too late to change our ways to avoid being “withered” and cast into the “flame.” Our God is merciful and always seeking our humility and repentance.

Our aim is to seek the Holy Spirit, so I@t rather than our “I”, or ego is motivating our way of life.

References: The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Matthew, by Blessed Theophylact, p 179

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