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Friends, today’s Gospel includes the parable of a fig tree that bears no fruit.

This is a standard trope in the theological literature of Israel: the tree that bears no fruit is evocative of the moral person who bears no spiritual fruit. Every single person has a mission: to be a conduit of the divine grace into the world. Planted in God—think of Jesus’ image of the vine and the branches—they are meant to bring forth the fruits of love, peace, compassion, justice, nonviolence.

And notice that this should be effortless. The closer God gets, the more alive we become. But the mystery of sin is that we resist the invasion of God; we prefer to go our own way; we cling to our own prerogatives and our own narrow freedom. And the result is lifelessness. It feels like depression, like your life is going nowhere—in Dante’s language, like being “lost in a dark wood.”

In Jesus’ parable, the one caring for the tree begs the owner for one more chance to “cultivate the ground around [the tree] and fertilize it,” hoping to bring it back to life. But if no life comes, the tree will be cut down. This is the note of urgency that is struck over and again in the Bible. We can run out of time. We can become so resistant to God’s grace that our leaves dry up. This is not divine vengeance; it is spiritual physics.

So don’t be afraid of God! Surrender to him.