The Coming of the Son of Man & The Lesson of the Fig Tree: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
“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 gates.” -Mark 13:24-32
This week is a lesson in patience and preparation. What we have seen in many of Jesus’ parables are every day connections to the lives of the people he was teaching. Fishing, shepherding, and farming were common professions he referenced. In his parable for this week Jesus focuses on a tree. When a tree prepares to bloom you can see signs of change in the branches. For this scripture reading in Mark 13 Jesus using a simple horticultural observation that everyone would be familiar. Jesus uses a fig tree highlighting that after a long winter weather will warm and slowly the tree will awaken. The fig tree is one of the last trees to bud in the spring season. When you see its branches become green with growth, small leaf buds will emerge, these visual signs are cues of the passage of time. Simply Jesus was saying; “when the fig tree buds you know that summer is near – likewise, when you see all these things happening, know that the end is near”.
What we know of God the Father and Jesus is that they are leading us to salvation with love and guidance. In our impatient and childlike mindset we are all too eager to keep asking “When, Father?” so frequently that we are no longer focusing on what we need to do to prepare our souls but rather desperately wanting to know. One part of our curiosity is eagerness and another part is our longing to know. If we remember how that went for Adam and Eve then we should take note to change our mindset. What we need to know is laid out quite beautifully in the scripture. As we can see in this parable of the Fig Tree. Jesus is providing his disciples and us with the skills to know when. He does this by explaining what signs we will see when Jesus returns to us in all His power and glory.
When we talk about this week’s parable Jesus is trying to tell his disciples to be on guard ready for His return. God said to the Church of Ephesus: “I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first” “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.” Rv 2:4
What does he want his disciples (and us) to do? Maintain their faith. Stay close to God so as to not drift away. This sounds easy but we know that this is a great challenge. To live a virtuous life is a path of focus. Resisting temptation and laziness is quite difficult. In our current times you could agree in general terms that people tend to choose the easy route. Frequently doing what requires the least amount of energy to do. (Any parent of teenagers can tell you how true this statement is for human behavior.) Technology has only made it more pronounced. Our ability to attain instant gratification has become an obsessive expectation. What a wonder it is to have so many things at our fingertips! With an expectation that numerous tasks take but seconds to do it makes for a difficult time in preparing for an event that will be on God’s timeline. It’s easy to walk away from loving God and replace that love for idols and distractions. (Hello smart phones and tablets!) Putting in the work to build a sturdy prayer life takes time and devotion. Jesus us calling us to maintain that time of reflective silence where we can be with Him and open our heart to His calling. If you find your life to be rather hectic I recommend taking a trip to a local parish that offers Adoration Holy Hours. Sitting in peaceful silence with Jesus can do wonders for an overwhelmed heart and mind.
Well since the day Jesus left this earth Christians have long expected to see the return of Christ taking place during their lifetime. Oh to be so lucky! Can you imagine the joy of the faithful?! We are waiting for the final revelation of Christ with the gifts God has bestowed upon us. “…..for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, at the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ….” 1 Cor 1:3-9 As time passes it becomes apparent that Christ’s timeline is not the same as ours. We forget how much we are but children in the eyes of God. We all know that patience is not something humans are known for having. Any parent or teacher can tell you what happens when patience has been spent with children.
Amok! That’s what happens. Children run amok!
This is no different for adults. When patience runs out people turn to laxity. It is in laxity where we see deeds of darkness (drunkenness, drug use, promiscuity, lust, rivalry, jealously, fear….) that make us numb and insensitive to the beauty of life. In our current world setting we are seeing these very things affecting people. One thing I have noticed is the patience for the sanctity of life is dwindling. There are many nations creating and passing laws supporting euthanasia in its various forms. This is a great tragedy. How easy it is for us to lose our empathy and humanity. As Christians believe that “…he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead….” right from our Catholic Profession of Faith. Persevering as a true Christian is not easy. If we remember from the Bible we are related to God in a sacred partnership, a covenant. In this covenant we are his co-workers in making this planet a better place to live for all. Have we worked to spread the works of love and peace in our communities? Have we looked for ways to cultivate good environmental stewardship? Have we taken time to devote resources or time to caring for our fellow humans (not inside our own family-friend circle)? When Christ returns what gifts can you show him? Did you choose to work towards a life of virtuous deeds or did yo choose laxity? Now is the time to bring Shalom (peace) to your home, school, or workplace. Make Shalom a message you carry with you every where you go. ..as we have learned…Blessed are the peacekeepers….
Watch: Here’s a short 5 minute video by The Biblical Nutritionist: What is the Meaning of the Fig Tree Parable? A Lesson about the Fig Tree that sums up the parable quite well and she shows a fig tree from her garden.
By being a resident of the Mid-Atlantic South our growing region is quite hospitable to many Fig tree species. Although it is a fruit that has become somewhat forgotten it is a delight to grow and eat. The Fig tree once mature will become a very large plant bearing many fruit. I admit that I was an adult before I sampled my first fresh fig! Not to say I didn’t enjoy a Fig Newton or dozen in my youth. It had never occurred to me before adulthood that this was a fruit I could grow in my own backyard. To familiarize yourself with this delightful tree and can learn more about the Common Fig by visiting the Encyclopaedia Britannica Fig, Ficus Carica entry. This Ancient Figs of the Holy Land has plenty of life cycle information perfect for the trivia lover in your family. Ex: the fig fruit is the fleshy inside out of a flower cluster. + For a more detailed background about the common fig this article: The History of the Fig in the Holy Land from Ancient Times to the Present Day is a fascinating read. Citation: Asaph Goor. (1965). The History of the Fig in the Holy Land from Ancient Times to the Present Day. Economic Botany, 19(2), 124–135. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4252586
Fig Tree activities: For a fun activity have a Fig Feast! This is really a wonderful way to open up the discussion about this lesson. Usually around October grocery stores will carry small packages of fresh figs. What a treat these are! See if you can find some fresh figs at the local supermarket. (Bonus if you can find them at a farmer’s market.) Let your children look at them. Cut them in half and talk about the fruit. + What does it look like on the inside? Let the children sample them. How do they taste? Do you think this would this have been a treat for people in Jesus’ time? Can’t find any nearby then try some dried figs or even look for a jar of fig jam. (While FigNewton cookies are fine to try too I really think trying the fruit in its most natural way is the best option.) Make some Fig Bars or try the recipe included in the #52Sundays handout.
If you would like to try some recipes that include Figs…. Olive Magazine has a page devoted to several ideas. Homemade fig bars, fig coffee cake, Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Fig Sauce, and fig and prosciutto pizza.
#52Sundays Worksheet: One of the 7 Pillars or themes of Catholic Social Teaching is to respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers. Resolve to learn one new thing about this aspect of Catholic Social Teaching this week. Catholic Relief Services has a great handout for children that can be used as a way to discuss the 7 themes. Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching for Children. (Spanish version handout.) If you need one for older children use their handout for Adults. (Adult Spanish version.) Let’s think briefly how to respect the dignity of work and the rights of workers.
For this week’s theme here is the CST 101 lesson plan for Dignity of work and the rights of workers. One thing we have been doing in our own home is to support small local business. While corporate America has made it easy, far too easy, to forget the value of products and services we can make an effort in choosing options that reflect our value of fair work. A global economy has its positives and negatives. One of the negatives is that people have become accustomed to a price line rather than the product and service. Well made products are difficult to come by these days. They will cost more and take longer to make. Our society’s current expectation for fast and cheap products puts workers in a position to sacrifice their worth to keep in business. How sad it is to be reduced to a number! This is precisely why it is important to teach our children the significance of this theme of respecting the dignity of work and the rights of workers of Catholic Social Teaching. Truly any skill we have learned and are able to share is and will be diminished due to society’s current devaluing of skilled labor knowledge. Examples are: Plumbers, electricians, woodworkers/construction, flooring specialists, all artists, all musicians, etc. Another thing we try to do in our family is support fair trade. This can be easier than you think. For us we are fortunate to have a very wonderful local fair trade shop. Because this store is nearby we make frequent trips there to find things we need for our home and find gifts for others. Our goal is to support local AND global artisans who are going to be paid fairly for their products. Our favorite shops are: Latitudes and Pachamama Market both stores we have visited frequently. Check in your area to see if there is a fair trade store nearby. There is a list of online fair trade shops that includes a variety of options for products.
Watch: We highly recommend taking time to watch videos from Symbolon Pt. 2 Session 9 video: Catholic Social Teaching:Build a Civilization of Love and Session 10 Catholic Social Teaching: Protecting Human Dignity these videos require a subscription, contact your Catholic Parish Office for details on your access availability. If your Parish does not have a subscription then consult the Catholic Relief Services series CST 101 which has lesson plans and short videos that correspond to each of the 7 themes.
Saints Feast Days to learn about for the week:
- November 11 St. Martin of Tours
- November 13 St. Frances X. Cabrini (Mother Cabrini) Visit Smallpencilcatechist on Instagram to see our pictures from the Mother Cabrini shrine in Golden, Colorado.
- November 16 Saints: Margaret of Scotland and Gertrude the Great
- November 17 Saints: Elizabeth of Hungary, Hilda of Whitby, and Roque Gonzalez y de Santa Cruz*
- November 18 St. Rose Philippine Duchesne
*Featured Saint of the #52Sundays this week
As far as other activities to do with your children for this week’s lesson I couldn’t find very many exciting arts and crafts ideas. I’d take the time to DO something related to the CST theme and read about the various saints of the week. I have listed some book suggestions below.
- The Sword and the Cape: A Tale of St. Martin of Tours by Pamela Love
- A Story of St. Margaret of Scotland by Brother Ernest, C.S.C
- St. Frances Xavier Cabrini: Cecchinas Dream by Andres & Dority
- Rose Philippine Duchesne: A Dreamer And A Missionary by Barbara Yoffie
- The Greatest of These is Love: The Life of St. Elizabeth of Hungary by Lori Pieper OFS
- Roses in the Snow: A Tale of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary by Dessi Jackson
Story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary video