“Japanese politics is tainted with egoism and populism. We need to use the tsunami to wipe out egoism, which has attached itself like rust to the mentality of the Japanese people over a long period of time.” After making this statement, the 78-year-old Tokyo governor went on to describe the tsunami in 2011 resulted in the loss of 15,000 lives as “tembatsu” – divine punishment. He might be right about the egoism and populism not only for the Japanese but around the globe, but it is wrong to conclude God was responsible for this cleansing of unwanted behavior. His thinking was absurd. The gospel of this third Sunday of Lent has also alluded in the text, by the contemporaries of Jesus time, that God was involved in the killing of the Galileans by the troops of Pilate. Some present in the crowd said those who died must have been the worst sinners for the killing to happen which is why God would not accept their sacrifice and used Pilate to kill them. Whenever a random disaster occurs, the hand of the punishing God is involved. This kind of thinking seemed to be hard-wired into the human mind two thousand years ago as well as today.
Jesus adamantly said no to this theological way of thinking to explain any disaster. He confronted the crowd who thought this way by saying: “But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!” The crowd was asking about the fate of others, and now Jesus wanted them to be faced with their own fate. Jesus wanted them to know their fate was in their own hands. They had to repent (change their mind) or they would perish. The conversation changes from questions of abstract theology to demands for personal decisions. The crowd looked outside themselves and wondered about the tragic fate of others and they connected this fate with the will of God. People must look inside to be in touch with the will of God and trust His will happen in the events of their lives. They were to bring God’s will on to the earth and not to match earthly events to divine will.
In the parable, we are fig trees called upon to bear fruit. Each of us is on a mission to do the will of God on earth. We have a decision to make: produce or perish. If we decide not to bear fruit, the soil becomes wasted. Wasted soil is similar to a squandered inheritance, which we will hear about in next Sunday’s Gospel about the prodigal son. It is also similar to the light under the basket, and salt that has lost its savor. We must make the decision soon and have enough kindness to let Jesus, the gardener, cultivate the soil and touch our hearts for repentance. It is ultimately up to us: produce or perish.