God’s Unending Patience

Socrates was a Greek philosopher who laid the groundwork for Western systems of logic and philosophy. Little is known about his life except what was recorded by his students, among them Plato. Though he was a fearless soldier, he was more known for his interest in the intellectual development of Athens’ youth. He attempted to establish an ethical system based on human reason and taught that the ultimate wisdom comes from knowing oneself. During Greece’s political turmoil, he was sentenced to death in a trial where he must have said: “the un-examined life is not worth living.”

Lent is a season that invites us to self-introspection. It is an interior process characterized by sincerity in order to recognize who we are and what our priorities are. By looking deep into ourselves we examine whether we have been fruitful or not. Such process of self-examination invites us to repentance. Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance. It implies not just regret of the past but a turn-around of one’s lifestyle in order to take on a new road that leads to betterment. It is not a one-time change of heart but an ongoing, daily transformation of our lives.

Today’s gospel reading is a parable about God’s patience. The fig tree has been barren for years despite the best attention given to it.  The owner decided to cut it down because it was a waste of time and investments. But the gardener pleaded to give it one more chance, one more year. On deeper examination, the fig tree is a parable about ourselves. Though we have been barren, yet God gives us unending chances.

Jewish rabbis taught that repentance or teshuva required five elements. Recognition of one’s sin as sin; remorse for having committed the sin; desisting from repeating this sin; restitution for the damage done by the sin and confession. These elements are also included in Jesus’ call for our personal repentance. We need to seriously consider his words “if you do not repent, you will also perish as they did.” As Psalm 95 says: “if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

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