Fig tree, barren

Commentary on this gospel story

February 25th 2012
The Gospels recount that, one day, as Jesus was walking along a path with his disciples, he felt hungry. In the distance he saw a fig tree and, on coming closer, saw that the tree bore only leaves, as it was not yet the season for figs. But Jesus, annoyed, cursed this tree, which instantly withered. Obviously, if you take this account literally, it is disturbing: since it wasn’t the season for figs, why did Jesus blame the tree? In order to interpret this episode correctly, you have to understand that Jesus is making use of the fig tree to address a certain category of people: those whose mind and heart are unproductive. With human beings there are no periods, no seasons; they have to be able to give fruits, that is to say, luminous thoughts and warm feelings, at any time. For the Lord can come at any moment; he does not wait for any particular period, and he does not give advance warning. Whenever he comes, be it summer or winter, daytime or night-time, the tree, that is, human beings, must be able to give fruit. Otherwise, the Spirit deserts them, and this is a curse for them: they wither and die. This is why they have to work to be able to produce fruit at all times.