For a long time, I have meditated on a part of the Gospel of Saint Luke that has caused a great impact on me. Recently, given the affliction of close people and the death of relatives that some friends have experienced, meditation has been even more intense.
Saint Luke tells us in his Gospel that, on one occasion, Jesus attends to some visitors who tell him of a heinous act committed by Pilate against some Jews and it seems that they pose it as a punishment from God to the victims for their wickedness. Jesus immediately interrupted and clarified that no, inviting all of us to a sincere conversion to God. But he then tells a parable:
A man had a fig tree in his vineyard and he went looking for fruit on it and did not find it. Then he said to the vinedresser: “Look, for 3 years I have been looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding it. Cut it down, why is it going to take up land for nothing?” But he answered him, “Lord, leave it this year also until I dig around it and put manure on it, in case it produces fruit; if not, you will already cut it”.
I am surprised that Jesus talks about putting “dung” on the fig tree so that it bears fruit. In the first century, manure must have been one of the most widely used fertilizers, but surely there were others. In any case, Jesus speaks of dung (there are other translations that speak of compost) and I prefer that word.
I have recently accompanied some friends who have faced the illness of a family member, certain setbacks and even the death of loved ones. All this has made me think about this parable. I have wondered if pain, illness, misfortune, and death itself are not the fertilizer that manure that we need in our lives to bear fruit or to improve the fruit.
I suppose that all of us -not just me- ask God to keep us from evil, to make the work of our hands fruitful, to provide us with what is necessary for the needs of the family and ours -so in that order-, to allow a happy life with Him and allow us to accompany you forever in Heaven. However, it is likely that setbacks are not necessarily misfortunes and could rather be additional reinforcements; it could be manure, the fertilizer we need to bear fruit or bear better fruit.
Although it may seem paradoxical, they can be manifestations of God’s love for us. For example, our own illness could help us improve some qualities that we have not attended to and that we need. It is also possible that our adversities are aimed at helping others. The illness of a close relative can help us to reconsider certain aspects of our life; to better value friendship, to reconsider certain values that we have established or simply to get closer to those who suffer and experience their closeness and affection. Also, to facilitate our giving to others which always bears much fruit as well as gives us so much joy.
The experience of death, for example, is not in itself a misfortune for the sufferer; because our life does not end; in turn, it is transformed and that step allows us to experience the fullness of eternal life. In any case, for those who die everything is resolved. However, for those of us who remain here, it can represent a strong impact, a shock, an inexplicable adversity that we consider unfair.
The death of a loved one confronts us first with our own fears. It leads us to review our relationships with that person, invites us to repent of possible blunders and to better value the moments we enjoy. It also allows us to forgive what has happened; at that moment it is no longer worth questioning anything, but asking God for forgiveness and accepting that forgiveness to heal ourselves.
For some unknown reason, our love is determined by delivery and delivery is in turn closely related to pain. It only hurts when we love. Obviously, no one is going to look for disappointment and pain for the sake of it; otherwise, that would be kind of strange.
But, thank God, we have the ability to give setbacks, pain and death a different focus and value, receive them as an opportunity to improve, take advantage of them to love. A popular saying goes that you learn more from defeats than from victories and thus, even if we are not looking for defeats, we can take advantage of them. I ask God to keep us from setbacks and evils, but if I had to receive them, I have the option of taking advantage of the pain they cause me, as fertilizer for my own good or that of the others.