In the gospel reading for today, we find Our Lord finding no figs on a fig tree in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Saint Mark tells us that is was not the time for figs. Didn’t Our Lord know that? Of course he did! Both by his human knowledge of agriculture (even most of us know when to expect figs on fig trees and when not to) and by his divine knowledge of ALL things. But he used the example of that fig tree which was covered with leaves but had produced no fruit as yet to point out that just as men expect fruit from fruit trees, so God expects virtue and good works from us human beings, and not just a lot of show. Then he went into the temple and there drove out people who were buying and selling the animals used in sacrifice. They were also engaged in changing the ordinary Roman coins for the temple coins for the purchase of those animals. Jewish coins did not bear the forbidden images of human beings which were considered “graven images” and therefore forbidden by the second commandment. To this day, we will find no images of human beings on Israeli currency, neither the paper money nor the coins, for that same reason. When driving the merchants and money sellers out of the temple, Our Lord said to them, “My house is a house of prayer, and you have made it a den of thieves.”
Let’s apply these two episodes to ourselves. A good tree bears good fruit. What about us? Are we bearing good fruit? Are we living the kind of life that Our Lord wants us to live? And what about our minds and hearts? Are they “houses of prayer” and not dens of thieves that steal from God the glory, adoration, and praise which he has a right to expect from us? A devout French Carmelite nun of the early 20th century—Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity—loved to call herself the “Praise of Glory” of God, a phrase she found in the writings of Saint Paul. Are you and I trying to be living “Praises of God’s glory?”
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three classical means encouraged by the Church for Lent. There are many kinds of prayer, the holy Sacrifice of the Mass being the greatest of them. There are many forms of self-denial. There are many kinds of almsgiving whereby we give to those in need some of our possessions. Money is the easiest to give, but we can also give of our time, our attention, our service.
We have much to think about in our spiritual lives. Let’s avoid what we might call spiritual absentmindedness, and FOCUS our attention upon Our Divine Lord. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago