By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Sunday addressed the faithful urging them to move out from their comfort zones and open their eyes and their hearts to those in need.
Reflecting on the Gospel reading on the third Sunday of Lent, the Pope explained it speaks to us of God's mercy and of our conversion.
He was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus Prayer.
The parable narrated by Luke, he said, tells of a barren fig tree which the master of the orchard decided to cut down.
He called the gardener in the orchard, the Pope said, expressing his dissatisfaction for the tree that did not bear fruit and asked him to eradicate it so that it would not exhaust the soil.
However, Francis continued, the gardener asked the master to be patient and pleaded for an extra year, during which he promised to cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it to stimulate the tree’s productivity.
The barren fig tree is a symbol of an indifferent and arid humanity
The Pope explained that the master represents God the Father and the gardener represents Jesus, while the fig tree is the symbol of an indifferent and arid humanity.
He said Jesus intercedes with the Father on behalf of humanity and begs Him to wait and give humanity more time, so that in it may bear the fruits of love and justice.
The fig tree, the Pope continued, represents a sterile existence, incapable of giving, of doing good: it is the symbol of a person who lives only for himself or herself, satiated and satisfied, happy with his or her own comfort, incapable of opening his or her eyes and heart to those brothers and sisters who live in suffering, poverty, discomfort.
God’s patience and Jesus’ love
He noted that this attitude of selfishness and spiritual sterility is contrasted by the great love of the gardener for the fig tree: he has patience, he knows how to wait, and he devotes his time and his work to it. He promises his master he will take special care of that unhappy tree.
Francis said that this story tells of God's mercy, despite the sterility that sometimes marks our existence.
“God has patience and offers us the possibility of changing and making progress on the path to good” he said.
But, he said, this does not mean there is no urgency for conversion.
“The possibility of conversion is not unlimited. That’s why it is necessary to seize it immediately; otherwise it may be lost forever” he said.
Rely on God’s mercy but do not abuse it
Pope Francis said “we can rely greatly on God's mercy, but we must not abuse it”.
We must not justify spiritual laziness, he added, but increase our commitment to respond promptly to this mercy with sincerity of heart.
Lent, a time of conversion
Pope Francis concluded his catechesis saying that on the time of Lent, the Lord invites us to conversion.
“Each of us”, he said, “must feel challenged by this call, correcting something in our lives, in our way of thinking, acting and living our relationships with our brothers and sisters”.
At the same time, he added, we must imitate the patience of God who has confidence in the ability of all to “rise up” and resume their journey. He does not extinguish the weak flame, but accompanies and cares for those who are weak so that they may strengthen themselves and bring their contribution of love to the community.