The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry. Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went over to see if he could find anything on it. When he reached it he found nothing but leaves; it was not the time for figs. And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!” And his disciples heard it. Mark 11:12–14
This is a very unique and interesting story. The first thing this tells us is that Jesus was fully human. As a man, He was hungry. But this story tells us much more than the simple fact that Jesus was hungry. He would have known that it was not the season for figs to grow, but He decided to look for a fig anyway. And when He found none, He cursed the fig tree and, as we read later in this chapter, the tree withered and died. This was a symbolic action for the sake of His disciples, in that His disciples heard Him curse the tree and later saw that the tree had withered.
Saint Bede, an early Church Father, tells us that this action of Jesus had an allegorical purpose. The tree is symbolic of the many people Jesus encountered, and continues to encounter today, who failed to bear good fruit in their lives. They were the Pharisees and others who practiced their faith only in an external way. The leaves, Saint Bede tells us, were symbolic of the externals of the faith, and the lack of fruit was a symbol of the missing interior fruit of holiness and good works. This lesson tells us that Jesus is very demanding. He is determined to discover good fruit in our lives. He wants us to become authentically holy. And when He finds only the externals, He will rebuke us in love, taking even the externals away.
What good fruit does our Lord want to find in your life? How does He want you to manifestly grow in holiness? Do you go through the motions, attend Mass, say some prayers, but fail to produce an abundance of virtue, compassion, mercy and goodness? Do you say you believe in our Lord but then fail to preach the holy Gospel with both your words and your actions? If our Lord were to come to you, as He came to this fig tree, what would He find?
Being a Christian is not something that is exclusively between you and God. Being a Christian requires that you be so given over to the service of God and others that God is able to do incredible things through you. The Christian faith must produce good fruit in your life and through you in the lives of others. And it must do so in an abundant way.
Reflect, today, upon the holy image of Jesus walking over to this fig tree inspecting it for a fig. See this tree as an image of your soul and see the hunger in the heart of our Lord. As He looks at you and your life, will He be satiated? Will He find holiness and manifest good works? Or will He find little to nothing other than external claims that you are a Christian? Commit yourself to an abundance of authentic and manifest holiness and our Lord’s hunger will be satiated.
My demanding Lord, You call all Your followers to a holiness that is lived, transforming, manifest and fruitful for Your Kingdom. Help me to be a Christian not only in name but especially in action. May my life truly bear the good fruit of holiness and may that holiness become a means by which You feed the spiritual hunger of Your people. Jesus, I trust in You.