Today’s gospel reading Luke 13:1-9 tells about Christ’s call to penance and conversion from our old evil ways, and demands us to rethink our ways and change. Christ revealed to us in the reading today that danger and calamity come unexpectedly and as such don’t give us the ample time as we expected to prepare ourselves for the judgment day. Today’s gospel reading has some features that demand our attention and response. Those are historic references to the Galileans’ bloodshed executed by Pilate and the crumbling of the tower of Siloh, which revealed misfortunes, regrets and complaints. We were given lessons for us to learn from them and change our ways unless, like Christ said, we would all perish as they did.
Upon my return to Nigeria I have had series of interactions with some young Nigerians. Amid this interaction I found a line of thinking similar to what I found while interacting with young Nigerians abroad. When you ask an average young Nigerian what he/she would do if given the chance to be Nigerian president, to fight corruption is often the readily given answer. Corruption in Nigeria is everybody’s concern, yet it increases everyday at an increasing rate. This is because most Nigerians are incurably corrupt. Corruption has become an intergenerational legacy. It has got so bad that it will require a brain transplant (sucking out the brains of most Nigerians and replacing it with a fresh brain that is free of corruption) to salvage Nigeria from corruption. Christ in today’s gospel brings to us a message of hope. He used the parable of barren fig trees to send to us his warnings about the effects of allowing corruption to take precedence over our lives. Corruption is like a cancer that eats from within. Thus it has to be eliminated from within. Corruption leads to a spiritual death which I think is an apocalypse more severe than physical destruction.
Fig trees as were given in the reading were an important source of food for the people of Palestine. It usually took about three years for a fig tree to mature and when it did mature it produced abundant fruits. But when a fig tree became barren it would be cut down to give way for more possible healthy ones. However, a rotten fig tree and its awful fruit signified to the Jews the effects of spiritual corruption caused by evil deeds and unrepentant sin. The barren fig tree signified the upshot of Israel’s unconcern to God’s message. Israel was described by Jeremiah and some other prophets as a languishing fig tree characterized by calamity and desolation. He associated good and evil rulers and Israelites with figs that were edible- good for eating- and figs that were inedible- rotten and useless. This parable of fig tree is likened to Nigeria’s current situation. Just as Christ said, unless we change our ways, we would all perish as they did.
In a similar vein, in the parable of fig tree, we were presented as the vineyard; the vinedresser symbolized Christ, who pleaded to his Father, the owner of the vineyard, to wait for another year to give the vineyard another chance to bear fruit. Christ would do whatever (for example shedding his blood on the cross) it takes to make us, the vineyard, bear fruit. That’s only if we change our ways. The change we hope for has to come from within; it is a personal change. Everyone needs to find a way to grapple with the challenge of personal change.