Free From to Free For! | Word from the Shepherd No. 170

3rd Sunday of Lent | Year C
Exo 3:1-8,13-15; 1Cor 18:1-9; Lk 13:1-9

A professor mentioned to his class that all of us have to contend with two freedoms ie. the ‘freedom from’ and the ‘freedom for’. Just like the Israelites, we do go through the easier first liberation, where liberator saves us and followed by a second liberation, which is personal faithfulness to maintain and sustain the freedom gained. The first, a saving experience was when Yahweh led them out of Egypt, bringing them out of a situation to save them. The second was a re-planting experience, brought into a new situation to be fruitful.

In the Exodus 3:1-15, God activated a plan to rescue His people, the Hebrews from Egypt and Pharaoh’s stranglehold via Moses. He had seen their tears, their sufferings, their humiliation and their slavery. The plan was to free the Hebrews from the old life of slavery. God took them out. He moved them out. He saved them.

Now the Israelites were reminded that God, not only removed them, but re-planted them in a new land. In Lk. 13:1-9, the parable recalls for us this ‘re-planting’ of the Lord; planted as fig trees in the midst of vine trees, a people among foreigners. This is where we are now, His fig trees among vine trees.

But when the Lord came, He saw no figs from the fig trees. Unlike other trees which are seasonal, the fig tree bears fruits for 10 months, almost throughout the year. There were no fruits. It was not only this time, but for 3 years, the fig tree had nothing to show. God expected the normal not the abnormal, and yet they had nothing to show. They had forgotten to be what or who they were… fruit-bearing fig trees.

What happened to them? It was a slacking, a forgetfulness, a complacency, a sloth, reflected in their barrenness, fruitlessness. Paul cautioned the Corinthians about this sin, the sin of forgetfulness. The fig trees in the vineyard were reflecting the above maladies in their lives. What about us? Are we resting on the first freedom and failing  to free ourselves from the biggest enemy, ourselves? Have we forgotten where we are and where we have been planted?  Have we forgotten who and what we are? That we are figs, an all-year round fruit-bearing tree, unlike the vine which is seasonal. The fruits we bear, are for fellow travellers and those whose lives cross ours.

Lent holds us accountable for the great intervention of God, an initiative to move us out and move us into. It is a time to audit, to assess our lives whether it matches God’s expectations. Do we accept ourselves as the fig tree planted by the Lord in the midst of vine trees? The Lord looks for fruits in our lives. He has not chopped us down because there are good gardeners or caretakers pleading for our lives. Freedom For” means bearing fruits to free, save and serve God’s people wherever we are planted.