26 October, 2013. Saturday of the Twenty Ninth Week
Rom 8:1ff. God sent his Son so that we can receive his Spirit. This Spirit brings our mortal body to godlike life.
Lk 13:1ff. The mysterious randomness of suffering …. But all must yield some good fruit – or the tree may be cut down.
First Reading: Romans 8:1-11
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law – indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Gospel: Luke 13:1-9
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”
Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next ear, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’“
Bearing fruit together
The Bible proposes an ideal of close interdependence and sharing as the normal state of the people of God. It seldom considers an individual in isolation, but always as a member of the Hebrew nation, and in the New Testament this view reaches out to all the human race. The Epistle to the Romans builds on this insight where it says that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and that likewise, through one man, Jesus, the grace of God is freely available to all. For Paul, all share the same flesh and all should be gifted by the same Holy Spirit. “Flesh” for him indicates weakness and moral instability, while “Spirit” indicates life, purity and permanence. The Spirit gives character, quality, dignity and integrity.
Ideally, each member brings joy to others and is helped by them on the pilgrimage of life. However the variety of gifts and roles can provoke envy, antagonism, and even an ugly form of dominance. The administrator must beware of being over-bearing, the teacher of being pompous or proud, the practical-minded person must not totally abandon study and reflection, nor the spiritual-minded person abandon everything to devote herself to prayer. Each gift must function as a genuine service “to build up the body of Christ,” and therefore depends on others, even while serving them. If we share a common bond of flesh and spirit, as we read in Romans, then we both drag each other down and build each other up. The same person’s talents can help and complement us, or annoy and threaten us.
As we live in such close interaction, all of us members of one family with Jesus and with one another, we suffer together and we lift each other up. Together we grieve for each other’s sins, so that together we can bear fruit. If we do not transmit life together, we are like the persons whom Jesus warned, “You will all come to a dreadful end.” Or again, “If the tree does not bear good fruit, it shall be cut down.”