Patiently nurturing–the nature of God’s mercy: a gospel reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from
Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

I had a theology professor who would often say, “When preparing your Sunday homily, you should have the New York Times in one hand and your Bible in the other.” His point was that good preacher connects his message with what is happening in the world around us.

Good preaching addresses the issues that people are thinking and talking about.

This Sunday’s gospel is presents Jesus as an outstanding preacher (Luke 13:1-9). He uses recent events in the news to help illustrate his message about God.

Apparently there had been a deadly massacre near the temple in Jerusalem. Also, some workers at a construction project were killed when the tower they were building collapsed. (In today’s terms we might think of a mass shooting or of the recent crane collapse in New York City.)

Many people in the time of Jesus believed that disasters and tragedies were signs of God’s anger against sinful individuals or people. They thought that these terrible events were “punishments” sent by God.

Blue Mountains Local Studies Granville Train Disaster
Blue Mountains Local Studies Granville Train Disaster, Flickr Creative Commons

“Nonsense!” Jesus says. Neither good fortune nor calamity are indicators of one’s favor or disfavor with God. In other words, good and bad things can happen to anyone. However, in the future, God will judge the hearts of every soul, regardless of their situation in life.

(Some people aren’t going like this Sunday’s gospel. People who like to believe that tragedies that befall individuals are “punishments” from heaven might get a bit uncomfortable. Jesus’ words will challenge their thinking. Hopefully they won’t walk out of Mass.)

Jesus then tells a story about a fig tree—a fig tree that doesn’t bear any fruit. Stubborn tree!

Nonetheless, the vinedresser patiently nurtures, waters and cares for the tree—patiently hoping that it will bear fruit.

The point of the story is that God is merciful. And God never stops planting, in our lives, opportunities to start over, to try again, to rework things, to move beyond our hurt and pain and make things right.

Santi Fig tree - Higuera
Santi Fig tree / Higuera, Flickr Creative Commons

Every day, God’s mercy is constantly giving us a “second chance.” God is the patient gardener waiting for every “fig tree” to harvest.

Mindful that our life in this world is brief, will we accept the Divine Gardener’s daily grace?

The ultimate tragedy would be to have rejected all the opportunities.

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