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This week we hear one of Jesus’ parables found in the gospel of Luke. In Jesus’ parable the owner of the garden observes a barren fig tree. Reasonably, he orders it yanked out. But the gardener suggests that the owner give the fig tree another year. In the meantime he’ll break up the hard earth, aerating the ground around it so the roots can breathe and drink and take in nourishment. He’ll put manure around it, that golden substance which is the very ground of life and fertility – changing the very soil nurturing the fig tree.
So could it be that we are called to be good stewards of the gifts God has given us–our time, our talent, and our resources? That God expects us to be fruitful to the best of our abilities?
Lent offers the time of aerating the soil and adding humble manure. Lent is a time of taking care of things, while being taken care of.
Like a Mother Hen
In this week’s passage from Luke’s gospel, Jesus uses the imagery of a fox and a hen in a surprising way. But the archetypes remain the same, so we know that in the end the fox won’t succeed and the hen will save the day.
When Jesus speaks of Jerusalem, we get a rare glimpse of God as mother. He likens himself to a hen who longs to gather her disobedient chicks. This is God as loving and longing to protect even when it isn’t wanted or appreciated. The hen who sacrificially covers her children with her wings to endure whatever attack may come, from a fox or whatever would destroy them.
The Gift of Temptation
The reading we hear this week from the gospel of Luke describes Jesus’ retreat in the wilderness. Following his baptism, Jesus retreats to an isolated place to ground his vocation as God’s beloved child and messenger of salvation. No doubt Jesus understands that with great power comes the possibility for great temptation.
In solitude, the many inner voices of life often emerge. In this time of retreat, Jesus is visited by temptation. The temptations Jesus experiences involve good things that come between God and ourselves. There is nothing in principle wrong with comfort food, safety, and power for the good. Yet, all of these, when they become the sole focus of our lives, can lead us from our deepest vocation and relationship with God. We are seldom tempted by “bad” things. Rather good things that divert us from better things are the source of the greatest temptations.
Forgiveness and Love
The overarching themes in the readings for this week are relationships and forgiveness. In Genesis we see the relationship breakdown in families. You might think there's nothing new there, over 2,000 years on. On the one hand you have the brothers a bit disheartened that Joseph is alive, as they will have to ‘fess up' to what they actually did, and on the other hand we see Joseph offering forgiveness and acceptance of the wrong done and the hurt caused to him.
In the gospel reading from Luke, Jesus talks too about the importance of loving our enemies. He calls for attitudes and actions that seek the good of the other, which builds up the community. “Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return." How can we love our enemies though when everything we feel inside us about them makes us want to hurt them back as they have hurt us?
Jesus is not telling people to remain victims but to find new ways of dealing with those who hurt us. He is inviting all of us into forgiveness, into a deep, unlimited and radical kind of forgiveness that we can fully appreciate only when we have been on the receiving end of it.
Roses And Thorns
In the verses just before today’s passage, Jesus has been up on a mountain praying all night. When the sun comes up he calls together twelve of his followers and makes them disciples. Then he comes down to a level place and starts to teach. He hasn’t even had breakfast yet and people are gathering from all over the place to come hear him.
They are coming from as far away as Jerusalem in the south and Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast – several days worth of walking have brought Jews and Gentiles alike to listen to Jesus teach.
Those gathered looked forward in hope to the time when God would renew the level places and reveal God’s glory and salvation in them. Jesus stands with us in our broken level world and teaches the ways of this renewal through the Kingdom of God. At first, it sounds like the very things that bring us woe – riches, good food, and prestige – are the same things that bring us blessings when they are scarce. But this week we look deeper at these blessings and woes.
A Downpour of Love
One of our readings this week comes from the gospel of Luke. We hear how Joseph’s son has grown up. The wee boy that had sat at his father's feet in the carpentry shop hearing the worries of farmers as they waited for their ploughs to be fixed or the stories of husbands getting chairs mended, or the secrets shared as people worried over prices and priorities. That wee boy, whose craftsmanship as a carpenter but also as a listener had helped to sustain life in the village, was now a man in his own right, and when he spoke in the synagogue, Luke writes how well all spoke of him and how amazed they were at the gracious words he spoke. Here was someone who had heard and understood the concerns and complaints, the doubts and despairs of customers, who had smiled at their old jokes and joined in their celebrations and now was able to understand scripture not as a dry text of rules, but as real hope and light in the lives of what we might call ‘ordinary' people.
He was one of their own, welcomed and celebrated and given thanks for. If only Jesus had left it there, if he had been content to promise and celebrate but had he done that, the job would only have been half finished.