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Common Sense or Hope

February 28, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

February 28, 2016
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
Fr. George Smiga

Insanity has been defined as taking an approach to something that has never worked in the past and trying it again. Insanity is doing again what has never been successful. The master in today’s parable is trying to avoid this pitfall. For three years he has been looking for figs on his fig tree, and he has not found any. Trying for a fourth year would be crazy. The time is up. He wants to cut the fig tree down. His gardener, however, has a different perspective. He believes that the fig tree should stand for another year. He will fertilize it and cultivate its roots (things that I am sure that have been tried before) in the hope that it will produce figs in the future. It is clear that the master and the gardener disagree over the fig tree. The master speaks from the perspective of common sense. The gardener speaks from the perspective of hope.

Who is right, the master or the gardener? It is important to note that the parable does not tell us. It does not relate what happened. Did the gardener win the disagreement, and fertilize the fig tree for another year? And, if so, did it produce figs? Or, was the master unconvinced by the gardener’s argument and had the tree cut down? We are not told. We are only given the conversation between the two characters. And this might well be because it is the conversation that is the very point. Decisions are not easy. When the decision has to be made about an unproductive fig tree, it is important to listen to a differing opinion before the decision is made. And, if decisions about fig trees are difficult, it is even more of a challenge to make decisions about our lives.

We all have in our lives relationships and situations that are unproductive. Perhaps there is someone in our family that is struggling with addiction. We have tried an intervention. There have been treatments, and yet the person keeps returning to the abuse of alcohol and drugs. Do we try yet again, or do we decide it is time to stop? We might have a dream of achieving something in our lives. We invest time and resources, but nothing works. Do we decide to continue to invest time and money, or do we conclude it is time to set the dream aside? We might be in a relationship that continues to hurt us because of insensitivity or perhaps even because of abuse. We confront the issues. We forgive the offenses, but the hurt continues. Do we decide to continue in the hope the person will change, or do we choose to walk away?

When we have to make these life decisions, it is crucial that we speak to someone who can challenge our usual inclinations. If we are a person who makes decisions quickly and strongly, we are inclined to cut our losses in an unproductive relationship and move on. It is then that we should have a gardener, someone who asks us to consider that there still may be hope, and that perhaps with some more time and effort we can all share figs together. On the other hand, if we are a person who keeps trying no matter what, who keeps pushing forward despite our failure and even despite abuse, then we need a master who might speak to us out of common sense. He or she may tell us it is time to cut the tree down.

Of course, in all of these situations we have to make our own decisions, and there is no guarantee that the decisions we make will be the right ones. But, today’s parable tells us that if we want our decisions to be the best ones, we should speak to those who think differently from us. This is no small matter because it is our calling to discern God’s will for us. The parable of the fig tree tells us that we are more likely to find God’s will when we speak and listen to one another.

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