Navarre Bible Commentary:
3rd Sunday of Lent

Fig-preserves-fig-treeLuke 13:1–9

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”

Catholic Exegesis:

The Second Vatican Council teaches  that if we are to derive the true meaning from the sacred texts,  attention must be devoted “not only to their content but to the unity of the whole of Scripture, the living tradition of the entire Church, and the analogy of faith. […] Everything to do with the interpretation of Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church, which exercises the divinely conferred communion and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God” (Dei Verbum, 12).

St. John Paul II, when he promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church,  explained that the Catechism “is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.”  He went on to “declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” (Fidei Depositum).

Cited in the Catechism:

Passages from this Gospel reading are not cited in the Catechism.

Commentary:

The need for repentance

13:1–5. Our Lord used current events in his teaching. The Galileans referred to here may be the same as mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles (5:37). The episode was fairly typical of the times Jesus lived in, with Pilate sternly suppressing any sign of civil unrest. We do not know anything about the accident at Siloam other than what the Gospel tells us.

The fact that these people died in this way does not mean that they were worse than others, for God does not always punish sinners in this life (cf. Jn 9:3). All of us are sinners, meriting a much worse punishment than temporal misfortune: we merit eternal punishment; but Christ has come to atone for our sins, he has opened the gates of heaven. We must repent of our sins; otherwise God will not free us from the punishment we deserve. “When you meet with suffering, the cross, your thought should be: what is this compared with what I deserve?” (St Josemaría Escrivá, The Way, 690).

13:3. “He tells us that, without Holy Baptism, no one will enter the Kingdom of heaven (cf. Jn 3:5); and, elsewhere, that if we do not repent we will all perish (Lk 13:3). This is all easily understood. Ever since man sinned, all his senses rebel against reason; therefore, if we want the flesh to be controlled by the spirit and by reason, it must be mortified; if we do not want the body to be at war with the soul, it and all our senses need to be chastened; if we desire to go to God, the soul with all its faculties needs to be mortified” (St John Mary Vianney, Selected Sermons, Ash Wednesday).

Parable of the barren fig tree

13:6–9. Our Lord stresses that we need to produce plenty of fruit (cf. Lk 8:11–15) in keeping with the graces we have received (cf. Lk 12:48). But he also tells us that God waits patiently for this fruit to appear; he does not want the death of the sinner; he wants him to be converted and to live (Ezek 33:11) and, as St Peter teaches, he is “forbearing towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). But God’s clemency should not lead us to neglect our duties and become lazy and comfort-seeking, living sterile lives. He is merciful, but he is also just and he will punish failure to respond to his grace.

“There is one case that we should be especially sorry about—that of Christians who could do more and don’t; Christians who could live all the consequences of their vocation as children of God, but refuse to do so through lack of generosity. We are partly to blame, for the grace of faith has not been given us to hide but to share with others (cf. Mt 5:15f). We cannot forget that the happiness of these people, in this life and in the next, is at stake. The Christian life is a divine wonder with immediate promises of satisfaction and serenity—but on condition that we know how to recognize the gift of God (cf. Jn 4:10) and be generous, not counting the cost” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, 147).

Source: The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.

Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and by Scepter Publishers in the United States. We encourage readers to purchase The Navarre Bible for personal study. See Scepter Publishers for details.
“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” St Jerome

About Don Gonzalez 1057 Articles
I am a cradle Catholic, wandered in the desert of sin for 20 years and returned into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2005. I am the founder of Joe Catholic, a lay apostolate designed by men for men. Our mission is to aid lay men in answering the universal call to holiness and equipping them to be the spiritual leaders of their families. Simply put, we help people learn, live and share their faith. I recently completed my Masters in pastoral theology from Ave Maria University and work as the Magnet Program Coordinator at the Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet in Dallas.

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