All good scriptural texts have multiple layers of meaning. Different people can read the same text and receive very different messages. This can depend upon their life experiences, their world views or even simply their linguistic understanding. You may have read a text several times, but only now does the new layer of meaning appear. For me the new layer from Luke 13:1-9 was that God wants us to be fruitful and God is willing to give us all second chances to do so.
In this week’s readings we find situations where we would expect destruction however, we are surprised to find new opportunities for growth, nurturing and flowering. We are shown the way things grow in God’s kingdom. We see when things should be nurtured, when activities should be stopped and when projects should be started or come to an end. But not before they are given a second chance. God is patient, giving us as much time as we need to repent. We see this in the response to the desire to cut down the fig tree: “If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”
In the Old Testament, a fruitful tree was often used as a symbol of holy living (e.g., Psalm 1:3 or Jeremiah 17:7,8). In this week’s Gospel Jesus points out what would happen to unfruitful trees, the kind that takes valuable time and space in the garden but still does not produce anything. Jesus is warning us that we may get second chances and perhaps even be forgiven seven times seventy, however, God still expects us to be fruitful.
The key for us is to ‘look for fruit’. We should ask ourselves some reflective questions. Are you bearing fruit for God’s kingdom? Can you point to the fruit growing in your faith life? Where are you being tempted to “cut back” because of a lack of fruit? Where do you need to ask God for a second chance? Jesus encourages us to be patient with each other and ourselves just as God is patient with us all.
Well, that’s my layer of meaning, what’s yours?