With the weather being fairly frightful out today, it has been a good opportunity to take stock of the lessons for Holy Monday in some contemplative silence. In the Gospel lesson from the Daily Office, we read of Jesus finding no fruit when he visits the green fig tree. He curses it. It proceeds to die.
He goes on to the Temple. He finds there the apparatus of religion in full leaf… but not the fruit of holiness that should have been there when the Messiah arrived. The merchants are busy, the authorities are running a successful (and profitable) operation, but it is not the House of Prayer for all nations it was meant to be. Later on, Jesus will proclaim that the day of the Temple is coming to an end. Like the fig tree, it will be destroyed, no one receiving fruit from it again.
Jesus’ prophetic action reminds us that we don’t have all the time in the world. Like the Temple, we were put her to render a fruitful harvest. While there may be seasons in life, seasons in discipleship, there is no time in a Christian’s pilgrimage when they are not to bear fruit – especially that “fruit worthy of repentance.”
Monday and Tuesday in Holy Week have no strong tradition of commemorating special events. Rather, they serve as a rest between the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday and the Great Three Days. The Gospel according to Mark shows Jesus in a final, deep conflict with the authorities during this time. He paints a picture of a brewing storm, a headlong rush into conflict. The Gospel also pushes us to see that it is time: time for decision, time for action, time – ready or not – for the harvest.
Early Christians lived with a keen awareness of their mortality. As with the monastic tradition today, there is a deep sense that only by learning to accept our finitude, our limited time, our death, can we ever learn to truly live. The Gospel reading for this evening makes this very clear by showing us the significance of being ready, being fruitful when Our Lord shows up, hungry for righteousness.