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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Under The Fig Tree (Our Theme for 2023)

Today’s gospel: John 1:47-51

Jesus saw Nathanael and judged him to be a true Israelite (v.47). When Nathanael asked Jesus how he knew him, Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree.” (v.48). Nathanael, who had questioned if anything good could come from Nazareth, then made his profession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (v.49).

Nathanael moved from doubter to believer. This was a dramatic transformation, in a short, single encounter. The Israelite with no duplicity encountered the Messiah with no duplicity. And what had set the stage? Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree.

Sitting under a fig tree is a symbol of peace, prosperity and plenty. Micah said of the nations: “they shall all sit under their own vines, under their own fig trees, undisturbed” (Mi 4:4). This is after he said the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They would transform instruments of war to instruments of agricultural productivity, moving the focus from destruction to life-giving development.

People do long for peace in the world. But there will never be real peace, which is shalom, since the world is dominated by the evil one. It can only come in Christ. It can only happen as people are instructed in the authentic ways of God, so that they walk in His paths (Mi 4:2).

One who is instructed in the ways of God will become firm in the faith. One who walks in the paths of God will become founded on love, as the whole prophets and the law find their summation in the two commandments of love—that of God and of neighbor.

What then is the way to messianic peace? It is being firm in faith and founded on love. Tragically, even among God’s people, these two virtues are not being lived out. Many Christians have fallen away, and there is growing apostasy in the Church. Authentic faith has been greatly eroded. And so too is love being eroded, with many no longer knowing the love of God, or no longer practicing the virtue of love, or even overturing the meaning of love in accepting sinful relationships as love.

Jesus had spoken of the signs at the end of the age. He said that “many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. …. And because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.” (Mt 24:10,12). Sin and evildoing are opposites of authentic faith. Love growing cold and even hating one another are the opposites of love.

And so, rather than messianic peace, the world experiences war. Today there is unprecedented build-up of death-dealing weapons in many nations, there is increased mobilization of armed forces, there is frenzied training for war. Today there is even the threat of nuclear conflict, leading to World War III.

When will the world experience messianic peace? When can peoples sit under their own fig trees? We do not know. What we must know, for the good that can come out of it, is that we are to be firm in faith and founded on love. As we put our faith in Jesus and manifest his love in our lives, then we “will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (v.51).

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