33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 18, 2018
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree.
When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.
In the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that he is near, at the very gates.”
(from Mark 13:24-32)
Most of us know that things in our lives can change very quickly. Certain moments are “hinges” – periods of life where things alter radically, and they often happen without much warning. Yet, we can be prepared if we are able to read the signs of the times. Jesus warns us in this Sunday’s gospel that the end of the world (and the end of our own lives) will catch many people by surprise, much as the horrific California fires did this past week. These truly awful events remain a sign and warning to us all, that our time on earth is limited and that one day, we too will leave all behind, bringing only our soul within us, our faith, and what we have done with our brief lives on earth.
Jesus uses the example of a fig tree. When I lived in San Diego, California, the neighbor next door had a big fig tree planted next to my porch. One night I was sitting on the patio, when I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched! I quickly turned out the porch light, went inside, got a flashlight, and shined it into their fig tree. Imagine my shock to find 10 pairs of eyes staring back at me! It turned out that a family of raccoons had found an easy meal, and my neighbor had no figs to eat that year. I might add that in the following year he learned how to protect his figs!
It is ironic that these wild animals could read the signs of the times (the time that the figs were ripe) before the owner of the tree realized his figs needed to be picked. Might God be using signs like these in your everyday life to speak to you about coming events? Has the Lord given you a sign like this that you might have missed?
While the Lord has made it clear in scripture that we cannot directly connect specific disasters, both great or small, with any particular sin (see Luke 13:1-4), the fact remains that our Lord has valuable lessons about life for us to learn through the circumstances of our lives. Jesus would tell us to be prepared! Life can change in an instant, and we have to be ready. What would you do if the electricity went out for three weeks? More to the point, if this were the last day of your life, would you be ready to meet the Lord? Hinge moments, in both world history and in our own lives, can come at any time.