The sterile Fig
Astounded, the disciples ask: "Why did the fig tree wither immediately?"
Gospel - Matthew [21,19-22]
Seeing a fig tree on the road, he approached it, but he found nothing but leaves, and said to him: "May no more fruit be born from you". And immediately that fig withered away. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and said: "Why did the fig tree wither immediately?". Jesus answered, "Truly I say to you, If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you be able to do what has happened to this fig tree, but also if you will say to this mountain: Get up from there and throw yourself into the sea, it will happen. that you will ask with faith in prayer, you will get it".
Exegesis - Matthew [21,19-22]The fig is a particular plant: at the base of the leaves are inserted the flower buds which, opening, give rise to an inflorescence called syconium; in the spring season, even before the leaves have finished opening and growing, the florons ripen from the syconium, real fig fruits that are formed from the buds present on the tree from the previous autumn. In Palestine, and especially in Bethany where the climate is warm, fig trees bear fruit almost all year round; moreover it is customary to leave on the plants those figs which, due to the arrival of winter, have not reached maturity; these, when the lymph moves with the first warmth, become soft and tasty.
So Jesus, seeing the leaves, hoped to find surely, on that fig tree encountered along the road, some fruit capable of satisfying his hunger. This beautiful fig tree to be seen, adorned with a thick crown of luxuriant leaves, however, has no fruit, so that Jesus, firmly and in an unexpected way, exclaims: "May no more fruit be born of you". And immediately that fig dries up, leaving the disciples astonished who ask: "Why did the fig tree dry up immediately?"
Through this parable, Jesus intends to manifest both a truth and a spiritual teaching. To the disciples' question, in fact, he replies with "If you will have faith ..." and the value that here assumes the verb "to have" conjugated to the future and in a doubtful form has for his disciples, who are close to him, the meaning of a reproach, of Jesus' observation that they are still "men of little faith": they are like that beautiful fig tree to be seen, but devoid of fruit. Be careful, therefore, not to be in the same condition as the fig tree, when Jesus comes to seek his fruits, otherwise you will be destroyed!
The disciples have abandoned their homes and families; they followed their Master in the long pilgrimage through Galilee, Samaria and Judea for three years; they observed miracles, healings and deliveries; they attended his preaching; they shared food and fatigue with Jesus ... But now they hear from the Master that they have no faith! And the affirmation of Jesus is so true that, shortly after this episode, when he enters Jerusalem to meet the terrible gallows of the cross, he will find himself with Judas who betrays him, Peter who denies him and with all the others, except one, who run away and hide out of fear, leaving him completely alone.
In front of the barren fig tree, Jesus therefore leaves the disciples one of his last teachings: a strong call to have faith, to give oneself completely to him with trust, not to doubt, not to hesitate in leaving everything to follow him! Of course, it was an appeal addressed to the disciples of that time who saw him act and profess until the last moments; but, going beyond the centuries, it is an appeal that comes and remains valid also for us today: not so much for atheists or for non-believers, who have knowingly decided to undertake roads paved with money and success, but for Christians who say they being with him, Christians who are in his Church, pray, attend the sacraments, perform devotional forms, works of charity, and perhaps even have the honor of being Priests, Pastors, Bishops or Cardinals ...
No, all this is not enough to be truly "Christian"! It is necessary to be in a position to produce fruit when He comes to seek it, otherwise we will be destined to dry up, to be excluded forever from the possibility of budding, sprouting and fruiting.
The discriminating factor is therefore faith! And not only: "If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you be able to do what has happened to this fig tree, but also if you will say to this mountain: Get up from there and throw yourself into the sea, it will happen. And everything you ask in faith in prayer, you will get it". Here is the dramatic consequence: without faith there is only destruction and death, with faith you can do extraordinary things because you are in communion with God, with faith you abandon the carnal man to enter the dimension of the spiritual man, in the Kingdom of God and finally in eternity, anticipating love, peace and joy already in this life.
To surrender oneself completely to Jesus, obviously after having known him because loving and giving oneself totally to a person without knowing him is impossible, it is a matter of life or death, of unhappiness or of true bliss, here and now, present and eternal. In other dedicated pages, we will describe this important journey.