There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law--indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
The Lord's is the earth and its fullness, the world and all its peoples. It is he who set it on the seas; on the waters he made it firm. (R./)
Who shall climb the mountain of the Lord? Who shall stand in his holy place? The man with clean hands and pure heart, who desires not worthless things. (R./)
He shall receive blessings from the Lord and reward from the God who saves him. Such are the men who seek him, seek the face of the God of Jacob. (R./)
Some people told Jesus about the Galilean pilgrims whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. So he asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."
Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?' He replied, 'Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next ear, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'"
The Bible proposes interdependence as the ideal state of the people of God. Individuals are seldom considered in isolation, but as a member of the nation, and in the New Testament this view reaches out to all the human race. Paul builds on this insight when he says that through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and that on a higher level, through one man, Jesus, the grace of God is freely available to all. For Paul, all share the same flesh and all should be gifted by the same Holy Spirit. "Flesh" for him indicates weakness and moral instability, while "Spirit" indicates life, purity and permanence. The Spirit gives character, quality, dignity and integrity.
Ideally, each member enhances the lives of others and is helped by them on the pilgrimage of life. In practice, the variety of gifts and roles can provoke envy, antagonism, and even an ugly form of dominance. The administrator must not be over-bearing, the teacher must avoid pompous pride, the practical-minded person must not neglect study and reflection, nor the spiritual person abandon everything to devote herself to prayer. Each gift must function as a genuine service "to build up the body of Christ," and therefore depends on others, even while serving them. If we share a common bond of flesh and spirit, as we read in Romans, then we both drag each other down and build each other up. The same person's talents can help and complement us, or annoy and threaten us.
As we live in interaction, as members of one family with Jesus and with one another, we suffer together and we lift each other up. Together we grieve for each other's sins, so that together we can bear fruit. If we do not transmit life together, we are like the persons whom Jesus warned, "You will all come to a dreadful end." Or again, "If the tree does not bear good fruit, it shall be cut down."
The parables get us thinking and reflecting, to tease out what they might mean. In today's parable we have a fig tree in a vineyard that seems as good as dead. It has failed to bear fruit for three successive years. The reaction of the owner of the vineyard seems quite reasonable; have the fig tree cut down because it is only taking up space that could be used for vines. However, the owner's worker had a different perspective. He looked at the apparently useless fig tree and he saw the possibility that it could still bear fruit. He had a more generous vision of the fig tree, a more hopeful vision.
In truth all was not lost; there was still time for the fig tree to come good. The parable may be saying that this is how the Lord looks upon us, for he sees not just what we have failed to do in the past but what we are capable of doing in the future. He looks on us with generous and hopeful eyes. That is the way we are to look at each other and, indeed, at every situation in life. Like the worker in the vineyard, we need to be patient and look beneath the surface for the faint signs of new life that may be there.