BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
It’s been some time since Jesus had presented himself as a prophet at his hometown of Nazareth: the one sent by God’s Spirit to announce Good News to the poor. He tirelessly keeps repeating his message: God is near, opening up the path to make our world more human for everyone.
But he’s realistic. Jesus well knows that God can’t change the world if we ourselves aren’t being changed. That’s why he goes out of his way to awaken in people their need for conversion: «Change your hearts and believe in the Good News». This effort on God’s part to make our world more human will only be possible if we respond by welcoming God’s project.
Time has passed and Jesus sees that the people don’t respond to his call as he would want. There are many who come to listen to him, but don’t end up opening themselves to «God’s Reign». Jesus keeps insisting. It’s urgent to change before it’s too late.
On one occasion he told a short parable. A property owner has a fig tree planted in the middle of his vineyard. Year after year he comes looking for fruit on it and doesn’t find any. His decision seems to be very sensible: the fig tree doesn’t bear fruit and is needlessly taking up space, so the only thing to do is cut it down.
But his manager responds in an unexpected way. Why not leave it be for awhile? He’s familiar with that fig tree, has seen in grow, has taken care of it, and doesn’t want to see it die. He himself will put in more time on it and take care of it, to see if it bears fruit.
This story ends abruptly. The parable doesn’t have an ending. The owner of the vineyard and his manager disappear from the scene. It’s up to the fig tree to decide its fate. Meanwhile, it will be receiving more attention than ever before from this vineyard worker who reminds us of Jesus, «the one who has come to seek out and save what had been lost».
What we need today in the Church isn’t just to introduce little reforms, promote «aggiornamento» or take care to adapt to our times. We need a conversion at a much more profound level, a «new heart», a responsible and committed answer to Jesus’ call to enter into the dynamic of God’s Reign.
We need to act before it’s too late. Jesus is alive and well in our midst. Just like the manager of the vineyard, Jesus takes care of our Christian communities, everyday more fragile and vulnerable. He feeds us with his Gospel, he sustains us with his Spirit.
We need to look at the future with hope, and at the same time create a new atmosphere of conversion and renewal so desperately needed, an atmosphere that the decrees of Vatican II up till now weren’t able to bring about in the Church.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf