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Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Ecclus. 44:1, 9-13 & Mk. 11:11-26

By narrating the stories of various Old Testament saints Ben Sira is hoping to move his readers to emulate them in their own lives.

Just as the saints of the Old Testament were models for him, so too are the modern saints of the Church for us. They encourage us to reach for the highest levels of holiness. But we can find many inspiring examples, too, if we look at our own family history, perhaps exemplary parents and grandparents. Let us thank God for the part they have played if they handed on the faith they treasured to us, and shaped us to be the people we are. In my thanksgiving after Holy Communion I like to remember my good ancestors and the legacy they left in my family line, and I look forward to meeting them one day in Heaven!

Jesus seemed pretty merciless in today's Gospel reading when He cursed the fig tree! After all it was not even the season for figs. He could have enabled the tree to produce fruit, but instead He destroyed it! Jesus never worked a miracle for Himself, so we know it was not a punishment for not satisfying His hunger.

There is a powerful and encouraging message here. Every day, whatever the season, Jesus looks to see whether we are bearing fruit for His kingdom. This incident with the fig tree immediately precedes His entering the Temple at Jerusalem where He expects to find people "busy about His Father's affairs." (Lk 2:49) Instead He finds them occupied in worldly activity, and often fraudulent and unjust activity at that. The fruits of honesty and uprightness that Jesus expects to find are simply not there; so in a sense the fig tree symbolises the empty piety that Jesus encountered in the temple. He entered this holy place looking for spiritual fruit: love, worship and obedience. Instead, He found money changers who had transformed the house of the Lord into a "robber’s den". Overcome with annoyance at the sight, Jesus evicted these irreligious irregularities and established a holy atmosphere, in which He could teach the people.

These two dramatic episodes challenge us to examine our own lives. Are we like the fig tree - filled with great potential to bear fruit for the Lord, but still barren and unproductive? The promise of the Gospel is that, no matter what our season of life, we can bear fruit, not by working harder or sacrificing more, but by allowing the indwelling Holy Spirit to strengthen and comfort us with His presence. We can do amazing things when we surrender our hearts to Him and let Him work through us.

Jesus promised that if we did not doubt in our hearts, but believed, then our words would carry divine power. He promised that whatever we ask in prayer, we would receive from the hand of our gracious Father (Mk. 11:23-24).

Lord Jesus, clear our hearts of all wrongful influence so that the Holy Spirit can bring His life to us. Help us to learn to trust in the Spirit's power and not in our limited capabilities - in both the large and small situations that we face – and give us the confidence that our lives will bear fruit for God's glory.

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