Third Sunday of Lent
EX 3: 1-8A, 13-15
PS 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11
1 COR 10: 1-6, 10-12
LK 13: 1-9
In today’s Gospel, Jesus delivers the parable of the gardener and the fig tree. The owner of the orchard wants the tree to be cut down because it doesn’t bear fruit, but the gardener asks him to spare the tree, which he will care for so that it will bear fruit in the future.
This parable is short, but can teach us a great deal about God and ourselves. Some say that the owner of the orchard is God the Father and the gardener is Jesus, but I want to offer another way to look at it. The gardener is God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one who actually knows the trees in the orchard and knows what it takes to produce fruit. He is quick to say that the tree needs another chance. God is merciful and constantly invites us to come back to him when we fall away. The gardener is also willing to get his hands dirty to help the tree. He will cultivate the soil and fertilize the tree to help it produce fruit. The focus of Lent, leading up to the remembrance of Jesus’ Passion and Death, is the epitome of God’s willingness to get his hands dirty for our sake. The other readings for today serve as a reminder that God not only steps in to save his people, but he is willing to get his hands dirty in order to accomplish it.
So who is the owner of the orchard? The owner is quick to judge the tree based on expectations that he created for it. He is willing to give up and sees the tree as a waste of space. Often enough, I think that role belongs to us. We can be our worst critic. We look into our own life and say that we haven’t measured up to the expectations we created for ourselves. We judge ourselves harshly and sometimes we even give up on ourselves. When we say that we haven’t accomplished enough or even that we are worthless, it is God who wants to step in to say, “No, give me a chance to show you.”
God, the gardener, is constantly working to show us what he sees in us. To show us how great we really are and how great we can continue to become. Let’s spend some time this Lent, and hopefully beyond, to examine our days and ask ourselves, “How is God working to produce fruit in me?” “What is God working to produce in and through me?”