The story of the fig tree in Luke’s (13:1-9) gospel today offers us an image of a second chance.
I painted this image last November. Along the left side of the painting are phone messages that I re-created from a young man who desired to speak with me. WIth each message, his desire grows stronger to sit down with me and to speak of his life and addiction. On the right side of the painting, the messages are duplicated from an old-school message pad. However, when he actually sat in front of me, as the painting suggests, he comes with shame, guilt and regret and his body language offers us a glimpse of his silence. The label on the right side of the painting, “addict” gives us an opportunity to name what is going on but also to move beyond the labels we put on so many people. God offers us an opportunity to start again, to enter into the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.
Not every person gets a second chance. Not every addict gets sober or has the ability to process the guilt and shame that is embedded in their drinking or even in their sobriety. The gospel in this Lenten season suggests that all people are worth listening to, that every message we receive either from body language or the phone or text or email gives us another opportunity to reach out to people.
This Lent also offers us an opportunity to reflect on the ways people need God. Alcohol addiction is an overwhelming problem within the Church. From the hierarchy of the Church to local pastors and parish personnel, addiction is at the heart of many decisions even within the Church. I have seen this many times in my years of priesthood. People also carry the wounds of the early years from the addictions of relatives and friends. Co-dependency is housed in many hearts in people who sit in our pews and who work within our churches. Alcohol and drugs and the ability to move toward a second chance at sobriety are problems so many people face. However, we are all given another chance in this Lenten season to realize the truth of our lives in Christ Jesus, to live the message of Christ’s dying and rising. God’s mercy is abundant and certain, not only with the fig tree but within all of our lives as well.