The following reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager (c) 2014, whose website is located at DailyScripture.net
What can a calamity, such as a political blood-bath or a natural disaster, teach us about God’s kingdom and the consequences of bad choices and sinful actions? Jesus used two such occasions to address the issue of sin and judgment with his Jewish audience. Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Jerusalem at the time, ordered his troops to slaughter a group of Galileans who had come up to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice in the Temple. We do not know what these Galileans did to incite Pilate’s wrath, nor why Pilate chose to attack them in the holiest of places for the Jews, in their temple at Jerusalem. For the Jews, this was political barbarity and sacrilige at its worst! The second incident which Jesus addressed was a natural disaster, a tower in Jerusalem which unexpectedly collasped, killing 18 people. The Jews often associated such calamities and disasters as a consequence of sin. Scripture does warn that sin can result in calamity! Though the righteous fall seven times, and rise again; the wicked are overthrown by calamity (Proverbs 24:16).
The time for repentance and forgiveness is right now! The real danger and calamity which Jesus points out is that an unexpected disaster or a sudden death does not give us time to repent of our sins and to prepare ourselves to meet the Judge of heaven and earth. The Book of Job reminds us that misfortune and calamity can befall both the righteous and the unrighteous alike. Jesus gives a clear warning – take responsibility for your actions and moral choices and put sin to death today before it can destroy your heart, mind, soul, and body as well. Unrepentant sin is like a cancer which corrupts us from within. If it is not eliminated through repentance – asking God for forgiveness and for his healing grace, it leads to a spiritual death which is far worse than physical destruction. The sign of the barren fig tree Jesus’ parable of the barren fig trees illustrated his warning about the consequences of allowing sin and corruption to take root in our hearts and minds. Fig trees were a common and important source of food for the people of Palestine. A fig tree normally matured within three years, producing plentiful fruit. If it failed, it was cut down to make room for more healthy trees. A decaying fig tree and its bad fruit came to symbolize for the Jews the consequence of spiritual corruption caused by evil deeds and unrepentant sin. The unfruitful fig tree symbolized the outcome of Israel’s unresponsiveness to the word of God. The prophets depicted the desolation and calamity of Israel, due to her unfaithfulness to God, as a languishing fig tree (see Joel 1:7,12; Habbakuk 3:17; and Jeremiah 8:13). Jeremiah likened good and evil rulers and members of Israel with figs that were good for eating and figs that were rotten and useless (Jeremiah 24:2-8). Jesus’ parable depicts the patience of God, but it also contains a warning that we should not presume upon patience and mercy. God’s judgment will come – sooner or later – in due course.
Why God judges Why does God judge his people? He judges to purify and cleanse us of all sin that we might grow in his holiness and righteousness. And he disciplines us for our own good, to inspire a godly fear and reverence for him and his word. God is patient, but for those who persistently and stubbornly rebel against him and refuse to repent, there is the consequence that they will lose their soul to hell. Are God’s judgments unjust or unloving? When God’s judgments are revealed in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). To pronounce God’s judgment on sin is much less harsh than what will happen if those who sin are not warned to repent. Don’t tolerate sin God, in his mercy, gives us time to get right with him, but that time is now. We must not assume that there is no hurry. A sudden and unexpected death leaves one no time to prepare to settle one’s accounts when he or she must stand before the Lord on the day of judgment. Jesus warns us that we must be ready at all times. Tolerating sinful habits and excusing unrepentant sin will result in bad fruit and eventual destruction. The Lord in his mercy gives us both grace and time to turn away from sin, but that time is right now. If we delay, even for a day, we may discover that grace has passed us by and our time is up. Do you hunger for the Lord’s righteousness and holiness? “Lord Jesus, increase my hunger for you that I may grow in righteousness and holiness. May I not squander the grace of the present moment to say “yes” to you and to your will and plan for my life.”
The following reflection is courtesy of PresentationMinistries.com (c) 2014. Their website is located at PresentationMinistries.com
FRUITFULNESS OR DOOM
“Perhaps it will bear fruit. If not, it shall be cut down.” Luke 13:9 We must bear the fruit of evangelization and holiness. The alternative is to be cut down like an unfruitful tree (Lk 13:7, 9), and get thrown into the fire to be burnt (see Jn 15:5-6), possibly undergoing tragedies (see Lk 13:1-5) on this earth and finally undergoing the ultimate tragedy of everlasting separation from God in hell. Therefore, we must bear fruit both for our own sakes and for the salvation of as many people as possible (1 Cor 9:19). The Lord is so strict and severe about this because He is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). As Love, He wants all “to be saved and come to know the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). Everyone in the world has the need and the right to hear and see the Christians of this world proclaiming the Gospel and living it in holiness. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Otherwise, we will be punished. We can be sure of bearing fruit and of saving ourselves from the terrible effects of fruitlessness by living in Jesus and accepting Him as Lord of our lives so that He will live in us (Jn 15:5). To do this, we must die to ourselves (see Jn 12:24). “Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed” (2 Cor 4:10). We either die, live in Christ, and bear fruit, or we live for ourselves, are fruitless, and are doomed. Decide to be fruitful now.
Prayer: Father, like a grain of wheat, I fall to the earth and die to bear much fruit (Jn 12:24).
Promise: “It is [Jesus] Who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ.” Eph 4:11-12, our transl.
Praise: Jessica rejoiced in the deeper unity she and her husband enjoyed after he came into the Church on Easter Vigil. (Presentation Ministries offers a Discipleship Program to train disciples to bear much fruit for God’s kingdom. See the information elsewhere in this booklet for details.)
Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant my permission to publish One Bread, One Body covering the period from October 1, 2014 through November 30, 2014.Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, April 24, 2014. The rescript is a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free of doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted ecclesial permission agree with the contents, opinions, or statements