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.
Psalm 24: 1-6
The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 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 year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”
It is a very natural human tendency to compare oneself to others. People compare themselves to others out of pride but also out of a desire to get to the bottom of things, or the root of a matter. This can take on other forms from a morbid curiosity to even victim blaming. In wanting to get to the bottom of things, we want to find a reason behind events, tragedies, and crimes so we can keep them from happening again or from happening to us. How did that person die? (So, I can make sure it doesn’t happen to me.) How did the crime happen? Was the victim in the wrong place at the wrong time? (How can I make sure that never happens to me?) When people compare themselves with others, or even blame others, they do it in an attempt to protect themselves or stay safe.
In the gospel, when the people are telling Jesus about the Galileans who were killed, they are also trying to get to the bottom of things. They want to know if they deserved their cruel death in some way by being greater sinners than others. Christ’s response to them is a warning about their own salvation. He tells them how they will have the same end if they do not repent. Then, he tells them the parable of the fig tree. The tree is going to be cut down because it is not bearing any fruit, but the gardener intercedes on the tree’s behalf and promises to dig around it and fertilize it so it can bear fruit and not be destroyed.
In the Christian walk, we are all the dead trees who are only given a second chance because Jesus stopped us from bearing the punishment. Through his work on the cross, we can be transformed, like the fig tree, from death to life. Our salvation is our own responsibility, though. While Jesus granted us salvation and set us free from the law of sin, we need to do our part and repent. As St. Paul teaches in the first reading, to set one’s mind on the flesh is death, but to set one’s mind on the spirit is life and peace. Those who have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them will have life brought to their mortal bodies.
Do you take responsibility for your own salvation? Even if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, do you continually repent of your sins and rededicate your life to the Lord and his law? Today, thank the Lord for granting you salvation and ask him to continually dig around you and work on you so you can bear good fruit.