What About That Fig Tree?

Saturday, January 5, 2019

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jn1_50 figjpg

Today, in Mercy,  we celebrate the Memorial of Saint John Neumann. 

John Neumann was born in Bohemia on March 20, 1811. Since he had a great desire to dedicate himself to the American missions, he came to the United States as a cleric and was ordained in New York in 1836 by Bishop Dubois.

In 1840, John Neumann entered the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer (Redemptorists). He labored in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In 1852, he was consecrated bishop of Philadelphia. There he worked hard for the establishment of parish schools and for the erection of many parishes for the numerous immigrants. Bishop Neumann died on January 5, 1860; he was beatified in 1963.
(catholicculture.org)


In our first reading today, John tells us bluntly:

Whoever does not love remains in death.

This kind of statement is what one might  both love and hate about John. We love it because it’s clear, unequivocal- tells us exactly what we need to do.

And we hate it because it’s clear and unequivocal – there’s no evading it, no back door. We must love – everybody- or we are as good as dead. Wow!

Was this the kind of either-or that Nathaniel struggled with under the fig tree? He sat there pondering some deep challenge or decision and Jesus saw him – and understood-from afar.

The miracle of that moment caused Nathaniel to believe. But Jesus says:

Hold up, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Your little wrestling under the fig tree was all about your own small world and vision. I invite you now to see the world with God’s eyes.

We all spend worrying time under the shadow our own little fig trees – most of the time worrying about ourselves – who hurt us, doesn’t like us, gets in our way, misunderstands or annoys us.

Today’s Gospel invites us to stop licking our wounds. It beckons us out of the shadows of our self-absorption to see what God might see today – the beauty, the needs, the challenges and possibilities of the world around us. We are invited to become lovers and healers like Jesus. As John has said, we are invited to leave any shadow of death and to live in love.

Music: Maybe Nathaniel sang a song like this in his heart as he came out from under his fig tree.

Love Like Jesus – Rhett Walker

Remember Your Fig Trees

Friday, August 24, 2018

Readings: Click here.

Jn 1_48 fig

Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Bartholomew, also known as Nathaniel. As with many of the Apostles, little is known of Bartholomew’s life outside of a few Gospel stories. John’s Gospel tells the wonderful story of Nathaniel’s call by Christ.

The encounter is a very personal one. Jesus and Nathaniel share a conversation that must have impressed the other listeners because it was remembered and recounted word for word in the Gospel.

One exchange, in particular, carries deep significance for Nathaniel. Jesus says that there is no duplicity, or pretense, in Nathaniel. There is a transparency in him shared even with God. Nathaniel wonders out loud , “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

What was going on with Nathaniel under that fig tree? A moment of intense prayer, questioning, decision, doubt, hope? Whatever it was, Jesus had shared it, even at a distance. When Nathaniel realizes this, his faith in Jesus and vocation to follow Him are confirmed. Nathaniel professes, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

Where are the fig trees in your life story — those moments when, looking back, you realize that God was with you even though seeming distant?

What were the turning points in your faith, when you came out from under the shadow of a challenging experience, to the grateful amazement that God had accompanied you through it.

What are those pivotal, intimate moments when it was just you and God – those transparent moments that changed your life?

If you can’t recall any such moments, perhaps you are not giving yourself the time and space to let God reach you.

It might be time to seek out a “fig tree” – a place of spiritual solitude where you may speak honestly and directly to God about the most important things in your life. Open your heart, like Nathaniel, to hear what God already knows about you.

Music: The Memory of Trees – Enya (Some lyrical New Age music to listen to under your fig tree!)