An interesting and often-heard conversation goes thus…
A youngster asked his grandfather “Grandpa! How did you people live before with:
No mobile phones?”
To that, Grandpa, after a few thoughtful moments replied:
“Just like how your generation live today
>> Its left to each one of us to decide and judge, how far the above given comparison is true.
But one thing is for sure: External comforts often leads to lethargy in faith and consequently to the loss of devotion.
The Gospel of the Day is a major attack and a mighty warning by Jesus on this danger of how “external comforts can lead to lethargy in faith and consequently to the loss of devotion.”
The Gospel passage of the day is one of the many “sandwich” passages in the Gospel of St Mark.
“Sandwich” stories are a literary technique in which the narration of one story begins, but is interrupted by another story, before finishing the first one.
Some of the examples of these “sandwich stories” are…
In Mk 3: 20-35, we have…
A. Mk 3:20-22: Jesus’ family members set out to seize Him
B. Mk 3: 23-30: Jesus speaks to the Pharisees on their accusation of Him
A’. Mk 3: 31-35: Jesus family comes to meet Him
In Mk 5: 21-43, we have…
A. Mk 5: 21-24: Jesus is pleaded by Jairus to heal his daughter
B. Mk 5: 25-34: The woman suffering from haemorrhage is healed
A’. Mk 5: 35-43: Jesus heals the daughter of Jairus
In Mk 6: 7-33, we have…
A. Mk 6: 7-13: The disciples sent on a mission
B. Mk 6: 14-29: Herod’s opinion on John the Baptist and the narrative of the beheading.
A’. Mk 6: 30-33: The disciples return from the mission
In Mk 14: 1-11, we have…
A. Mk 14: 1-2: The Conspiracy against Jesus
B. Mk 14: 3-9: The anointing of Jesus at Bethany
A’. Mk 14: 10-11: The conspiracy plan by Judas to betray Jesus
Such kind of “sandwich” layers illustrates points for reflection by showing ..
… similarities and contrasts between the outside and the inside layers.
… the first and the last as “the bread”‘ and the centre one as the “filling” of the sandwich!
Today’s Gospel also follows this “sandwich-story” structure… Mk 11: 12-25, we have…
A. Mk 11: 12-14: Jesus cursing the fig tree
B. Mk 11: 15-19: Jesus cleansing the Temple
A’. Mk 11: 20-24: Jesus’ teaching on the withered fig tree
The passage of the Cursing of Fig Tree has been one of the very “puzzling parables”
… especially to know why did Jesus curse the fig tree, “when it was not the season for figs” (Mk 11:13)
It is to be noted that in Palestine “the fig fruit appears before the leaves”
(The fruit that first appears on a fig tree comes in March and April – the Passover time.
>>These are the first fruits – small fruits – very immature but edible, and could be eaten when one was particularly hungry.
The harvest – the season for figs – would be in mid-August to October. That would be when they would be in full fruit and fully mature)
The Gospel says that “Jesus saw the fig tree in leaves…” (Mk 11:13)
To see a fig tree with leaves, therefore, warranted the assumption that there would be fruit on the tree.
But this tree was odd!
The leaves were there, but it was fruitless.
The Lord had a right to expect some fruit, even though it wasn’t the full season for fruit yet.
>> So He approached the tree.
But when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves.
This phenomenon, therefore, served as a perfect “visual aid” for an important lesson that the Savior wished to teach.
In the incident that follows in this “sandwich story”, Jesus cleanses the Jerusalem Temple
The Jerusalem Temple which was to be a place of “prayer and worship”…
… had become more of a “place of business and commerce”
>> It was like a “fig tree: having leaves, but no fruits!”
>> The Fig Tree – with leaves but no fruits…
>> The Jerusalem Temple – with external beauty but no inner devotion…
… both point to this important dimension: “External comforts can lead to lethargy in faith and consequently to the loss of devotion.”
Is my life like this Fig Tree?
>> Having a lot of leaves of comfort and external show…
… but failing to produce the fruits of love, joy and peace?
Is my life like the Jerusalem Temple?
>> Having a strong external edifice of fame and name in the society…
… but failing to maintain intimate devotion and inner faith?
We live in a world with a lot of materialistic and worldly challenges.
Yet, as Christians, we are called forth to live a life “of faith and devotion”
Let us always be reminded: “External comforts often leads to lethargy in faith and consequently to the loss of devotion!”
On this First Friday of the Month, let us surrender ourselves and to the Sacred Heart of our Lord, renewing our love and commitment to Him…
… and may this Gospel Passage be a strong reminder and a warning to all of us, to live a life of “holiness and sanctity”, producing the fruits of good virtues!
God Bless! Live Jesus!