Saturday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Ephesians 4:7-16; Luke 13:1-9
Today’s gospel reading is the only time that Jesus comments on current events. There are many things he might have said about Pilate’s murderous rage against worshipers, or the tragic accident that took eighteen lives in Siloam. But look what he did say: if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did (Luke 13:3,5)! Why?
Let me answer that question with a question: If you knew that today was your last day, what would you do? Well, Mass is a good start. After that, Confession. Then there are people to talk to: differences to iron out, wrongs to forgive, forgiveness to beg, fences to mend. And there are things you will not do: the internet, the usual line-up of TV or radio shows. In other words, you will make every moment count.
When we compare that to life as normal, it’s easy to see how much we take time for granted. Confession? Next time; the line is too long. Fixing broken relationships? Some other time; I’m not ready. TV? The internet? Oh, there’s a lot of time to spend on those!
This is why our Lord said what he did. As time passes and our lives go on, we lose the sense of immediacy in his call, and we risk squandering the grace he gives us in the here-and-now. We can feel his frustration in the parable; all that time and energy spent giving the fig tree everything it needed, and what was the result? It was content to take everything and give nothing in return. No wonder the owner called for its death.
And that’s why Jesus chose the moment he did. Nothing brings home the importance of lost time more than sudden death. We think of the victims: What wouldn’t they give for just one more day with family and friends! From our own experience, we know that when we mourn the death of someone, we reminisce about the time we spent with them. What seemed like ordinary times then become treasured memories now, and there is no sorrow like that of knowing there were things we might have said to them or done with them that we never found the time for. We have to live with that loss the rest of our lives.
And that brings us where Jesus really wants us to be: Thinking about our own lives. He knows very well that, when our final moment comes, nothing is going to matter except how we spent the time he gave us. Like the fig tree in the garden, we’ve been given everything we need to grow in every way (Ephesians 4:15): time, grace, the Church, and the virtues, to name a few. The question is, what fruit will he find? How are we building up other people? Are we growing in gifts like wisdom, knowledge, understanding, or piety? Do we see in ourselves the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?
These are what our time is best spent on. From that perspective, how precious those moments in the Confession line, how priceless the time spent mending broken relationships, and how inconsequential all those hours in front of the TV or computer screen.
Of course, by the mercy of God, today is most likely not our final day, and God does not demand that every second be lived as if it is actually our last. However, he does want us to treat every moment as the gift that it is, to remember that only by the grace of God do we draw our next breath, and that what ultimately matters isn’t how much time we have been given, but what we do with that time.