On this Third Sunday of Lent, we reflect on Jesus' telling of the parable of the fig tree's fruitfulness. The parable is presented in the context of some disturbing news regarding the fate of a group of Galileans. Jesus' teaching presents an understanding of God's mercy and judgment that challenges those who hear it...and may challenge us as well!
Our Scripture passage is found in the Gospel according to Luke. You may find the Scripture lesson by selecting the following link: (Luke 13:1-9).
For continuing study, reflect on these questions (found in the study guide below):
After reading the assigned Scripture lesson, consider the beginning portion of the reading (the report of the tragic death of the Galileans in the Temple); Jesus grew up in the area of Galilee as well...how might this news have particular impact on him? Did you notice any words or phrases in the reading that resonated with you?
Read the "WHAT..." paragraph in the guide below and reflect on the author's comment that "the extravagant nature of God's mercy is an important motif in Luke's Gospel account" and yet, still "people need to respond to God's mercy." What does the tension between "God's mercy" freely offered, yet a need to respond to this mercy mean to you? Have you experienced this in your life?
After reading the "WHERE..." paragraph below, reflect on the author's statement that "God's judgment is tempered by divine mercy." As with the tension in the question above (God's mercy vs. our response), how do you understand the tension between "God's judgment and divine mercy?" Are these two aspects of God consistent, or do you struggle to make sense of these two sides of God's justice?
After reading the "SO WHAT..." paragraph below, reflect and respond to the author's question at the end of the paragraph: "Ask yourself if you are like that fig tree. Are you bearing fruit or just taking up space?"
Read the "NOW WHAT..." paragraph below, and spend some time in reflection of the difficult question of "sin, righteousness, and suffering." There are many biblical texts that would lead the reader to believe that good people will always be cared for, and the wicked shall have their evil ways repaid, yet the suffering in the world seems rather random and doesn't follow the pattern that only the evil suffer. How do you understand Jesus' teaching to his followers, and what are your thoughts about sin and suffering?