Friday of the 8th Week of the Year
By JS Benitez
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
Does this question arise also in your mind that, if two sincere believers ask for opposite things at the same time, how can their prayer be answered by God? Like for example, one is asking for a rain and the other is asking for a sunny day at the same time, how can God answer these two opposite things? The spiritual writer Basil Pennington in his book, Challenges in Prayer, answers this question by saying: “God will give us whatever we want, asking in prayer what we truly want, not what we say we want or even think we want. God listens to the heart, not to the lips. He knows, too, how limited is our understanding and knowledge. He sees our truest desires and knows how they can best be fulfilled. And this is what He grants.”
Today’s gospel reading, we have this interesting story about Jesus cursing the fig tree. It seems that He is becoming unreasonable in expecting a fig tree to bear fruit when it is not yet the time for it to have fruit. And what is worst, feeling hungry and not finding any fruit, he curses it. When He enters the temple area He goes wild. And after the incident, when St. Peter reminds of the curse He made with the fig tree and now withered, He ignores it. He simply says: “All that you ask for in prayer believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours,” (v. 24). Jesus is meek and humble of heart and why this is so? Why Our Lord has cursed the fig tree?
No doubt that there is a deeper meaning here. It is because the cursing is immediately followed by His entering the Temple area where He expects to find people “busy about His Father’s affairs.” But instead He finds them occupied with worldly activity and often fraudulent and unjust activity at that. He says: “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people’ but you have made it a den of thieves,” (v. 17). Cursing the fig tree and cleansing the temple of merchants are so closely connected that Jesus is actually calling us to bear fruit in our prayer. In other words, if we come into God’s house and we are not praying and turning it into a den of thieves we are not bearing fruit. And if there is no fruit, the Lord is going to curse us, just as He does with the fig tree and drives the merchants out from the temple.
Even today we make our churches like den of thieves instead of a house of prayer. It is because I heard of so many people who go to church because they want to pray but they cannot because there are so many people talking, walking around, cutting through the sanctuary, dragging things around that should not be happening in the sanctuary of the Lord. We lost respect for the holy place of God called Church. And because of this we have stolen people’s opportunity to pray.
Actually the fruits that Our Lord expects from us when we pray or when we are inside the Church are these: First, we have to respect the holy place of God, the Church. Let us make sure that we are not robbing God of what is legitimately His. We are the Church and therefore we are the temple of God, and so let us make sure that we are a house of prayer, prayerful enough to be with God.
Another one is, as one priest said in his homily that, when we pray the first thing we have to do is to forgive anybody against whom we have a grievance so that in turn our heavenly Father will forgive us. And in being forgiven, then we will be able to bear fruit in prayer and can approach God with a clean heart.