I recently saw a business reporter on the news trying to convince people not to panic and sell off their stocks after a day that had seen a 300pt. loss of the Dow. I tried to imagine if the reporter had some stake in the game, or rather truly believed that a sell off by regular people who are invested in the stock market was not in their best interest. It is hard to know whom we should trust in our investments, but it is harder to know which investments will really produce and when it’s time to sell that dead dog. But what if we give it one more chance? What if we wait another year for that stock to produce?
I know nothing about the stock market, and know little about much else, but this Sunday we hear Jesus telling the story of a fig tree that has failed to produce, such that there are clamorings to cut it down. But then comes the voice of mercy – give it one more year. Clemency, another opportunity, but one which will require additional nurturing to potentially get it to bring forth some fruit. We live in a world that is results oriented. Don’t tell me what you are going to do, show me what you’ve done! After all is said and done, much is said and not a lot done. Into this reality that expects a payout on investment, it is hard not to cut our losses and move on. And yet, Jesus, the gardener in his own parable, gets a reprieve from the master of the orchard. The question remains, will it do any good?
We are given relatively few do-overs in life. We can’t take back our hurtful words, our uncaring thoughts, nor our self-centered actions. But we can choose differently today. If we are given the blessing of another day, we have the opportunity to use it well, to produce good fruit. But for that additional investment in us to make a profit, we must be open to the cultivation that the shareholder is willing to bring, to be receptive to the fertilizer that the gardener is willing to supply.
This Lent challenges us to stop doing it the same old way. To look at what is feeding our sinful ways and get rid of them before they get us cut down permanently. While we can do this in so many ways in our personal lives, our Holy Father’s recent Encyclical Laudato Si encourages us to examine how we are doing the same with all of creation. We have, for far too long, used methods of consumption of our natural resources that have left the planet in some ways, no longer able to produce. We have failed to cultivate our garden and wonder why the fig tree no longer produces. As we use forms of Lenten discipline upon ourselves these 40 days, may we bring those same principles of mercy to bear upon our use of all of creation. Both we and our planet have much to offer, even if we look as if we may fail to produce. May our acts of cultivation and fertilization this Lenten season bring an abundant harvest of grace in the months and years to come.
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