The Readings for the 8th Friday of Ordinary Time
- Sirach 44:1, 9-13
- Responsorial from Psalm 149 (Response: The Lord takes delight in his people..)
- John 15:16 (Alleluia)
- Mark 11:11-26
And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.Mark 11:14 (RSVCE)
SO MANY SERMONS ON this passage make it out to be about Israel, or the Temple priesthood. In fact, the footnotes on the USCCB website say this as well. If we read the entire pericope we might see a different interpretation. If every pericope is supposed to teach the whole Gospel, then what can we see here? Certainly condemning those who say they reject Jesus might make feel good those who say they accept him. What does Jesus actually say though?
Pull back a bit and you’ll see that the story of the cursed fig tree is framed. He’s leaving Bethany, which name means House of Figs. And he sees a fig tree… It also means House of Affliction. Interesting. So we’re about to afflict this fig tree, right? Jesus is hungry. He wants a fig. It’s not the time for figs though. So he curses the tree. And yes, then he cleanses the temple. But when his disciples ask him about the tree, what’s he make it out to be? Not the temple but rather about the fruit of righteousness in the hearts of the disciples: prayer. Forgiveness. Mercy.
Yes, it would seem the Temple is a visible parallel to the fig tree. But we need to be consistent in our readings: if Israel is a type and foreshadow of the universal (Catholic) Community of the Messiah, then what is done in the Temple is not “done to them…” but to all of us in symbol. Figs are Israel, I get it: but the Church is the Israel of God. The House of Figs is filled with followers of the Messiah.
That means that it is his followers from whom the Messiah is driving out the money changers. It is we who are in danger of being cursed if we do not bear fruit, “in season and out of season.”
Jesus comes to the Temple. He sees what’s going on. He goes to the house of Figs. He – also there – sees what’s going on. He curses the barren tree, drives out the money changers, and the tree dies.
Jesus cleanses us from our sins, restores us to God. But if we are bare, we will die.
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