A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke 13:1-9
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them— do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!" And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.'"
REFLECTION: “'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not, you can cut it down.'"
Where would we be without a second chance? There is a 13th century saint, Margaret of Cortona, whose life shows the mercy of God and how second chances can bear fruit. Margaret was a young girl when she lost her mother. Her step-mother made her feel unwelcome in her own home, so as a high-spirited young woman, she eloped and bore a son for her lover out of wedlock. The couple raised their son for nine years until the child’s father was murdered. His sudden death moved Margaret to returned home as a penitent daughter.
However, she was refused by her family. She sought asylum with the Friars Minor at Cortona, where she lived to make reparation for her past sins. At first, she earned a living by nursing the sick and then she served the poor expecting no recompense. She lived off of alms and became a Third Order of St. Francis.
During this time, she experienced ecstasies and received messages from Jesus. She founded the Confraternity of Our Lady of Mercy and a hospital in Cortona. She had a great love for the Eucharist and our Lord’s Passion. She lived twenty-nine years doing penance, speaking against vices and telling all to return to the sacraments. In addition to these fruits, her illegitimate son became a friar.
We can all be like the fig tree in the passage, just enjoying the sunshine and rain in our lives, without bearing fruit. But Jesus, the gardener, can till and fertilize the ground we are planted in, if we give him the chance. When faced with the reality of death, St. Margaret of Cortona surrendered to God who cultivated her heart. We too can be changed in times of trouble. We can turn to God asking for forgiveness and performing the works of mercy without measuring our costs. Or, just like the fig tree owner who cuts down a tree, we will be subject to God’s justice and we too will die. Jesus’ message in this passage is to repent or perish.
Every day, we should repent and sacrifice our time for prayer. We can make reparation for our past sins by finding a way to help someone, or serving a member of our own family or community. The Holy Spirit will guide us and the saints can inspire us to bear much fruit. In the end, a penitent heart will never be refused by God.