The Parable of the Fig Tree

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In today’s Liturgy of the Word we are presented with the following Gospel reading from the Gospel According to Saint Luke:

And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” (Luke (RSV) 21:29-33)

As we near the end of the Liturgical Year, the readings at Mass always begin to remind us of the Eschaton or End Times. The intent of these readings seems consistent with the Church’s overall mission of feeding and caring for Jesus’ flock until His return. In this she must ensure that all hear the message of the Gospel, striving that all come to know the Love and Mercy of Our Risen Savior.

The Parable of Fig Tree is no different of course. In this, we find Jesus teaching His disciples through the image of a fig tree and its leaves. Our Lord equates the blossoming of a fig tree to the blossoming or fulfillment of the End. The leaves of the fig tree serve as a barometer for the coming of summer just as the signs detailed in many of the apocalyptic writing do the same for the end of the world.

Moreover, in my unscholarly opinion, the reference to summer is not in error or even related to the season in which this parable was probably told, it is a play on the memories that summer often evokes: joy and celebration. For the Faithful the End Times is not a moment of despair or worry despite the necessary pain and suffering that we must endure prior to, it is a time for joyous celebration as Our Blessed Lord would be returning triumphantly to gather His sheep to spend eternity with Him.

This parable also serves to remind us that we must remain vigilant for the signs of the end. This does not mean that we seek to know the end for our own disordered purposes such a vain preparation of our lives at the last-minute but instead it is a reminder that vigilance requires us to maintain our faith and works consistent with the fact that the end will occur without warning.

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