Fr. George Smiga
March 3, 2013
The fig tree in today’s gospel is given one year before it will be cut down. How much time do we have? Now I am not insinuating that we will die within the next year, although that is always a possibility. I ask this question to emphasize that none of us has enough time. Our time is limited by the responsibilities we bear, by the resources that are available to us, by the finite nature of life itself. So we can be relatively sure that whenever the end of our life comes, we will say to ourselves, “I did not have enough time to do everything that I wanted to do.” Therefore, when I ask the question, “How much time do we have?” I’m not asking, how much time do we have to do everything. I’m asking how much time do we have to do what is really important.
The challenge is to do the things that really matter. This is complicated by the fact that there are many, many good things that we could do. The fig tree is the perfect example of this. The fig tree was not dormant or dead. It was alive and growing. It was taking in water from the soil and sunshine from the sky. It was putting down roots. It was producing leaves. But it was not doing the thing that was most important to the orchard owner. It was not producing figs.
Now most of us know rather well the difference between important things and things that are not important. We know that having healthy relationships with our family and friends are more important that our personal success or comfort. We know that helping someone in need, making someone’s life better, is more important than watching television or surfing the internet. Yet, although we know these things, we often end up filling our days with things that are less important. How do we explain this? Let me offer two reasons: routine and fear.
When we live our life based only on routine, when we give ourselves over to auto-pilot, we can be doing many things. But there is no guarantee that we are doing what is best. Much like the fig tree, we can be putting out leaves, we can be putting down roots, but we could be missing the thing for which we were made. Living a life of routine is non-reflective, because we never stop and ask ourselves the question, “What really counts?” We never stop to ask, “Is there something that I need to do? And do I need to do it today?”
We can also be frustrated by fear. We know that there are things that need to be done: an attempt to reconcile ourselves with our family or a friend, the necessity of taking on an important project, the responsibility to say to someone that you love them. But we are afraid. Afraid that our attempts at healing will not work, that the project will not succeed, that the love we offer will not be accepted. Because we are afraid, we hold back, we postpone, and we fill our lives with lesser things.
The good news is that our faith can help us with both routine and fear. When we believe in God’s presence we can turn to God in prayer. We can take time and ask God to show us what is really important and then use the authority of God’s response to break the pattern of routine that distracts us. When we remember God’s love, we can overcome fear because we can know that whatever we need to face, whatever challenge lies ahead of us, we will not face that challenge alone.
There is never enough time to do everything. That is why we must use the time that we have to do what is most important. So ask God today to show you what really matters and then use God’s response to break the pattern of routine that can stifle you. Turn to God today and ask for God’s help. Use your faith in God’s presence to grow in courage and to dispel the fear that can paralyze you.
In other words, do not end up a barren fig tree. Take steps today to produce fruit!