Learning from the fig tree
A reflection for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Martín Valverde
I am blessed to have a fig tree in my yard at home.
It’s not just any fig tree; it is a direct descendant of the fig tree of St. Philip of Jesus, the first saint and martyr born in Mexico.
And I have a habit of looking at it while I say my morning prayer. A few times I have made a simple and sincere prayer under it, knowing that God is watching me, like Jesus watched the Apostle Nathaniel (cf. John 1:48).
For this reason I am very aware of its cycles, which are completely linked to the seasons of the year.
I have seen it practically dry in the winter, and it is always wonderful to see its first fruits in the spring in order to be ready and full of leaf for the summer. The sight of it crowded with birds of all sizes and colours enjoying her figs is unique and indescribable.
And so, in the midst of all the apocalyptic discourse, which is no minor thing, and which we read this Sunday in our churches, Jesus comes out with an invitation to learn from the lesson that the fig tree gives us, simplifying everything within the image and process of a fruit tree.
To be talking about stars falling, a commotion among the heavenly bodies, tribulation in the sun, and the like, and then suddenly to say that comparing everything with a fig tree is the best way to learn to read our times, is very typical of Jesus, who always did everything possible to bring his message closer to us.
God has arranged that everything has a cycle, a beginning and an end, that we learn from in order to know how to interpret our own times and seasons of life, as individuals and as a society.
Always, at this time of year, the Church tends to give us these readings that are full of eschatological material. They are not easy to read, but pastorally they have a compelling purpose for all of us.
They speak to us of an end, the end of all ends, which will bring us finally to the beginning of Total Eternity. They tell us how time, our time, surrenders to Eternity.
All of these passages can be read in very different ways: with fear, with respect, with curiosity, and of course, with joy. Each end has its own interpretation, and each person involved in the story gives it its colour.
When a soldier has been at war for a long time, the news of the end of that war, that his army has won the battle, is, above all, good news. The fullness of his experience – friends who have become brothers through battles, violence, deaths and injuries – colours this end.
When it comes to tragedies, the most common question is “Why?” And it is only logical that our simple humanity asks that question as a first reaction to whatever happens.
This Sunday, the Church, without denying the eschatological context that surrounds the readings, takes us beyond this “Why”. She takes us, instead, to the “For Whom” and “By Whom”. Before, during, and after all this, there is Jesus. We remember that He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
I would not like to omit to mention that many people in the world today are living their own apocalypse, and that the social, political, and material destruction that surrounds them only announces to them a terrible end. Even though we ourselves are certain that it is not the total end, belittling it, or being indifferent to them, distances us from the Mission of Mercy to which we are called.
In the middle of everything and at the end of everything, is Jesus. He makes all the difference; He surpasses everything. He gives meaning and reason to everything. Everything has an end; everything will pass away. He does not; He remains. And just as He assured us, He and his Word will remain beyond heaven and earth.
Without a doubt we have a mission as Christians to do our part in caring for God's Creation. That is why we do not announce an end; we announce The Encounter, the Rebirth of our whole being by knowing, loving and following Jesus.
Today talk with your loved ones and share these two points:
- How do I see the Fig Tree of my life and that of the world?
- In the midst of everything that is lived today, who is Jesus for me and for us?
That makes all the difference between end and Eternity.
(translated from the original Spanish by Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann)
The readings for the Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Martín Valverde is a Mexican singer/songwriter and evangelizing pioneer. He was born in Costa Rica, and for more than 40 years his ministry has taken him throughout the American continent and Europe. He is the author of hundreds of songs and multiple recordings in four languages. He lives in Jalisco, Mexico, with his wife Elizabeth Watson with whom he has three children.