Rom 8:1-11, Ps 24:1-6; Lk 13:1-9
"Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face."
So what is the blessing, the reward that we shall receive from the LORD God, our savior? What do we expect from the LORD who made the earth and its fullness and all those who dwell upon it? He founded the seas, and he established the rivers. How can we even climb the mountain where he dwells? How can we stand in his holy place to receive anything? We must have clean hearts, and sinless hands. We must not desire anything that is vain. What is vain? It is vain to desire anything more than we desire the LORD God Almighty. Can we claim membership in the race that seeks him, that seeks the face of the God of Jacob? We are commanded to ask, seek, and knock. Whenever we ask, we receive. Whenever we seek, we find. Whenever we knock, it is opened to us. Our Heavenly Father always answers our prayer by the abundant gift of the Holy Spirit. For what more could we ask? Does not the gift of the Holy Spirit far surpass all we could have ever imagined? Is there anything else we need? As Saint Paul teaches his beloved in the church in Rome, "If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you." Indeed it is only the Holy Spirit who can enable the growth necessary so that we can bear His Fruits to nourish and refresh our world: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The law has only so much to offer. It does guide us in forming a good conscience so that we can continue to choose the will of God. However, the law has not power to strengthen our weakened flesh. Indeed, we are weakened because the desire or tendency toward sin remains enfleshed as patterns of behavior, habits of the heart. What we cannot do of our own accord, God does within us by the gift of grace in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. We are too close to our own situation to see ourselves clearly, as God sees us. We all too easily make excuses for our weakness and sinful habits. They have become our friends; they seem to offer some level of comfort that is within our reach and our control. Left to our own devices we have no hope for change, for growth in spirit and truth. We need the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ in order to be strong and even to desire the Father's will more than our own will. In the Holy Spirit we belong to Christ and we no longer belong to sin, to our habits of seeming self-affirmation. Because Christ has taken up residence in our hearts, we are dead to sin and alive in Christ. As Saint Paul writes elsewhere, we can say with total confidence, "It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me!"
Before the Lord Jesus told the parable in today's gospel, where did you think he was going? Perhaps it seem like he was trying to answer the question we often express this way: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Actually, he refuses to answer that question. The Galileans were killed because Pilate wanted to achieve some political goal. Those crushed by the tower of Siloam were killed because of a freak accident. There is no easy explanation for "physical evil." The Lord Jesus used these two examples from the news of his day to simply summon his listeners to repent. Even more so, this crowd was warned to stop thinking themselves to be better human beings because they did not suffer in these ways. They may have been even more painful events ahead of each of those who gathered around the Lord that day. Then comes the good news, and it's in the parable. The gardener says to the orchard owner like Jesus says to the Father with his whole life and ministry. "Father, let me pour my life upon the cross and pour out the Spirit upon this fig tree of yours, then it will bear fruit." We are the fig trees. This is our grace filled, Spirit filled opportunity! If we do not bear fruit this time, will there be another opportunity? At a dark and turbulent time all through the Western world Saint John of Capistrano was summoned to sanctity and to service. As a Franciscan Friar and Catholic Priest this great Christian Optimist helped the plague infested and war torn peoples of Europe to triumph over the darkness of Moslem domination and begin to heal from the Western Schism when there were three claimants to the Holy See at one time. This Holy Friar continues to pray for us that darkness will be lifted from our hearts and that we might bear the Fruits of the Holy Spirit in our day.