Friday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
1 Peter 4:7-13 + Mark 11:11-26
May 27, 2016
“…the Lord… comes to rule the earth.” [Psalm 96:13]
Reading the newspaper, or scrolling through news websites, one might wonder when exactly it will be that the Lord will come to rule the earth. Each month seems to see a wider gulf between the laws of the land and the Law of God. But the Church sings that “the Lord… comes to rule the earth. He shall rule the world with justice.”
When will the Lord’s rule of justice commence? Today’s Scripture passages point us towards an answer. The Psalmist sings that “[t]hen shall all the trees… exult.” The evangelist declares that Jesus, hungry, saw “a fig tree in leaf,” but “found nothing but leaves.” Jesus cursed the tree, and it withered.
St. John Chrysostom notes that Jesus “curses the fig tree for His disciples’ sake, that they might have faith in Him. For He everywhere [to persons] distributed blessings, and punished no one, yet at the same time, it was right to give [His disciples] a proof of His chastising power”. These words of St. John Chrysostom make us realize that during the thirty-three years of His First Coming, He never cursed a human person: not Judas Iscariot, not Caiaphas, not Pontius Pilate. At His First Coming, He only blessed man, even giving for man His own life. At His Second Coming, He shall ask what each man bore from that price that He had paid, and He shall curse the barren man.
That is why St. Bede the Venerable notes that Jesus, “[h]ungering… that is, desiring the salvation of mankind, … saw the fig tree, which is the Jewish people, having leaves, or, the words of the Law and the prophets[;] and [Jesus] sought upon it the fruit of good works, … and He found it not, and therefore condemned it. [Therefore,] unless [you would] be condemned by Christ in the judgment beware of being a barren tree, but rather offer to Christ the fruit of piety which He requires.”
St. Mark the Evangelist makes the meaning of today’s Gospel passage more clear by using what we might call the “sandwich technique”. It’s rare in the Gospel accounts to find one narrative sandwiched between the two halves of another. That rarity makes the effect more striking.
In today’s Gospel passage, the barren fig points to the barren Temple. The tree and the Temple are condemned in word and deed, so that man might not be.
St. Bede notes that what “the Lord had done in figure, when He cursed the barren fig tree, He now shews more openly, by casting out the wicked from the Temple.” It might seem odd that the omniscient Jesus would curse the tree when “it was not the time for figs.” But the timing of the tree’s curse prefigures the Temple being condemned in the fullness of time. The Lord demands His harvest not according to the seasons of nature, or to the ages of man, but to the Providence of God.
In His divine Providence, Jesus calls His disciples—including yourself—to the virtue of faith. “Have faith in God.” The Most Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Jesus is the fruit of the tree of the Cross: the fruit that nourishes the Christian’s faith, makes his soul a “house of prayer”, and leads him to everlasting life.
 Quotations are from the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas, with translations into English by Blessed John Henry Newman. Found at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/CAMark.htm#11