Feast of the Fig Tree
November 14, 2010 2 Comments
Make a joyful noise, my friends. Now begins the first Feast of the Martyred Fig Tree!
A few months ago I posted about what I call “The People’s Saints.” That is, deceased individuals whom I have chosen to honor religiously for their actions, their spirit, their stories while living:
Sure, I’m only calling them “Saints” because that is a word that has a lot of power for me – it ALREADY has meaning as a title. Sure, my obsession with folk-catholicism is obviously shining through here in its full glory. But GODDAMNIT I’m going to keep on sainting folks and putting images of them on my altars and praying to them because they’re WICKED AWESOME. I’m saying we should raise hell for the Glorious Dead.
I’ve come up with dates on which to celebrate particular individuals, and I’ve arbitrarily chosen (along with Ruby Sara, my constant companion in all such things) today to celebrate and honor not a human, but a plant.
This plant, a pleasant enough plant, was needlessly blasted once upon a time by none other than Jesus of Nazareth.
Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:18-22 – You can read one Christian interpretation of this passage here.)
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree? Who knows. It looks to me like he did it just to be an ass, or, possibly, just to make a point to his disciples about the supernatural powers one could gain through faith in YHVH. Either way: Shame on you, Jesus.
Then again, it makes you think. If I take the time to get even a little perturbed at Jesus and his probably fictional interaction with a similarly fictional fig tree, how then must I consider my own interactions with each plant or animal around me?
Today, like most days, someone on the street asked me for help. She was a middle-aged woman, and she asked me to buy her a bowl of soup. I said No and kept on walking, just like most days. I had some money; I wasn’t in a hurry.
Shame on you, Johnny. Shame.
Is it not the same thing to blight a tree as to leave a woman out in the cold, hungry? The fig tree, I think, can teach us about humility and giving – the opposites of hate and indifference. Now all I need to do is learn the lesson.
O Holy Tree, blasted and whithered by another’s hand, save us and save others from our greed and spite. Amen.