Today’s first reading reminds us that God has given each of us unique gifts, talents, skills, and abilities, to be used for various purposes in building up the Body of Christ. The wellbeing of the community is reliant on each member playing his or her part.
The psalm brings us back to our Israelite religious roots; that of place-based worship in the Tent of meeting or later, the Temple. Today, there are tabernacles in every city and town, but as St. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians (6:19): “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you?”
In the gospel, Jesus debunks the common belief that suffering, illness, or accidental death were divine punishments for sin. Sometimes, suffering is a consequence of our own actions. But, when bad things happen to innocent people, where is God? I believe the Passionist charism of meditating on the Passion of Christ is illuminative. We have a God who has endured tremendous human suffering, and understands our pain. We are the Body of Christ; and when we suffer, God suffers along with us. Similarly, when our sisters and brothers around the world suffer, solidarity calls us to feel their pain. The Passionist volunteers in Jamaica call it “accompanying the crucified of today”.
The parable of the fig tree is a rich template for lectio divina: am I the tree, slow to bear fruit but given another chance? Will I bear fruit, using my talents and abilities to serve the community? In what way? Maybe I am the owner, impatient for results and in need of a reminder to be on God’s timeline, not my own. Or perhaps I am called to be the gardener; nurturing new movements of the spirit and helping others fulfill their unique calls to build up the Body of Christ.
-Moira Reilly (PVI-Jamaica ’06-’07) is a caretaker at Bethlehem Farm, a Catholic community in Appalachia that seeks to transform lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices. We invite volunteers to join us in living out the Gospel cornerstones of prayer, community, simplicity, and service. www.bethlehemfarm.net