A Lesson From A Fig Tree

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By Carolyn Shields

Mk 13:24-32

So I never liked the end of the world stuff. To me it was so far fetched and out there that I could never wrap my mind around it, plus I was never necessarily sure how much of it was to be taken literally. And lastly, it was a part of God that I never really saw. The anger and the power and the rage or whatever…and I think that’s fine because it can take years before you see a certain side of someone. Like I’m sure wives never saw their spouses be protective until he’s a dad, or maybe moms sometimes become freakishly hygienic once they have kids. 

So when I looked at the Gospel I ughed because the first few verses are nothing but dramatic end of world stuff, very in your face, sun darkening, the moon losing its light, the stars falling and the Son of God summoning his angels and all. And I really didn’t want to contemplate the doom and gloom all week.

But then, like *that,* Jesus turns the narrative on a dime and says so sweetishly, “But hey, look at the fig tree.” He takes this massive drama and diverts us to look at a FIG TREE. Which I think is funny. Like if there was a nerdiest tree, it’d probably be a FIG TREE, right? And Jesus says, “Hey, come look at it. Draw close. You see that little sprout on its branch?”

Like can you imagine the disciples held totally CAPTIVE by this really heavy end of times stuff and suddenly Jesus is waving them in to look at a little sprout?!

But His point is how it points to something bigger than itself. Like an uneasy stomach can signify new life in your womb, or the return of the lanyards that freshmen have swarmed campus, or a snowflake signifies winter is coming, just like a bud or sprout points to a shift in the season too. Jesus not only notices a fig tree sprout just as much as stars cascading from the skies, but in a way, He’s telling us that if we stay attentive to the little things, we will be led to greater truths. 

And not only this, but He’s telling us to stay alert and attentive to all the signs He has in our life. For years I thought this was a mindset kind of thing, to always ask myself, “What is God asking of me in this moment” or “What is God saying/willing/wanting” whatever…and it never stuck because my gosh, we use our brains a lot and it’s hard to keep something at the forefront of it. So I think this attentive attitude goes deeper than a mindset but rather, it’s a way of living that we have to embody, kind of like how a mother isn’t always listening for her baby’s cry but knows immediately that she is needed. Or how a piano player masters a sonata and his fingers dance not by capturing each note and chord but because of instinct, or how we don’t think of every step we take but we can run free. So too can we be attentive to what the Lord wants to show us from the big colossal things in life to the little ones.

Someone else might have gotten something totally different out of this Gospel, maybe leaning more into “no one but the Father knows,” and that “be ready” stuff that usually goes hand in hand with end of the world things. But I like the fig tree part best.

What was your takeaway?