Saturday, June 2, 2007

Missing the forest for the tree.

Memorial of St. Justin, martyr
June 1, 2007
Mass Readings:
Sirach 44:1, 9-13
Mark 11:11-26

Today's Gospel text is amazing and beautifully complex. It takes place in several scenes.

Jesus goes to the temple and takes a look around. It's late and things are closing up so there isn't much to do. Jesus is probably frustrated. We seem to always think of Jesus as just walking along not a care in the world and calm and at peace, no matter what. Jesus went to the temple for a reason and he is greeted with the late hour of the day. He has a schedule and it is off kilter. Sounds a bit like us. We don't like it when we run out of time and I would dare say Jesus didn't like it either.

They leave and Jesus is tired an hungry. He goes to pick a fig and finds none. He is frustrated, hungry and tired. He lets go of some stress and curses the fig tree. Sounds very human when you stop and think about it. Recall how many times we take our frustration out on one another. Sounds like a much better idea to yell at a tree instead of a person.

The next day. Jesus and the disciples return to the temple. What Jesus sees is more than he can accept. His Father's house has been turned into a market place, just another business. This sacred place has been corrupted and Jesus has had enough! His nerves at the edge and he "cleans house"! Jesus tosses the money changers out and not metaphorically but physically! You can almost hear the Twelve gasping and getting out of the way. What has happened to their leader? What is he getting so upset about? Jesus goes a step further and he blocks people from bringing their purchases in with them! Can you imagine doing that today?!

Jesus is crying out against the corruption freely accepted and reducing his Father's house to nothing more than a shopping mall. God's house is a place of prayer not commerce. Jesus even teaches clearly that it is a place of prayer. Jesus is very clear about why he did what he did.

So they leave. As they walk along the Twelve see that the lowly fig tree is dead. They are amazed and Peter speaks first. The curious thing is that the Twelve get excited over the fig tree but we don't have any record of them sharing Jesus' outrage over the corruption seen at the temple. They seem to miss the forest for the tree. What Jesus said about holiness and prayer isn't nearly as exciting as a dead fig tree. Hmmm. How human. For the Twelve, striking down a tree with a word is more interesting than being taught about holiness.

Do we do that today? Are we so busy seeking something exciting that we forget to just be in God's presence? Do we want a parish that is entertaining instead of prayerful? Do we want a parish that is flashy rather than striving to be holy? Are we focused on tasks rather than formation? I am talking about seeking to grow in faith rather than just doing a list of things. Do we demand to be served instead of being servants? We must first grow in faith and holiness before our actions will bear fruit.

If we aren't careful we can slip into the trap of looking for things rather than looking for spirit, action before faith. We must first listen to Jesus before we can be fruitful disciples. We must strive for the "whole package" and not just bits. If we seek to listen and follow, we will be able to see the whole forest instead of just a dead tree.