In today’s Gospel reading (Luke 13:1-9) we hear Jesus say, “if you do not repent, you will all perish.” Twice, Jesus advises the people to repent or they will perish. Then he follows his advice with the parable of a fig tree which would not produce fruit. The fig tree was in danger of being cut down if the gardener had not pleaded for it to be spared by saying, “’I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”
Jesus calls us to repent and when I google the meaning of repent in the dictionary I see that it means to, “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.” As I look out my window into the sleeping rose garden of St Paul of the Cross Retreat Center in Pittsburgh, I cannot help but think that repenting is much like recognizing where our hearts are like the hardened soil winter leaves behind. Through repenting we approach the hardened parts of our hearts and try to loosen the soil so it will be open to receiving the cultivating shower of God’s Mercy and Grace.
It is difficult for a plant to thrive in hardened soil and the same is true about our hearts, they can’t thrive without a fair share of repenting. All of us are faced with times in our lives when our hearts grow hard. Possibly it is when we have been hurt and toughen up as a way of protecting ourselves from being hurt in the future. Sadly, some of us toughen up so much that it takes traumatic events to even loosen us up a little bit. These traumatic events can leave us in tears, feeling like God has abandoned us or just doesn’t love us. We cry out, “Why Lord, why have you allowed others to hurt me so much!” But, if we look deep into our hearts and recognize this pain can bring about many good things, then and only then, will our hearts be open to be cultivated with His love.
The hardened winter soil found around the rose (and our hearts) can be loosened through repentance if we truly set the eyes of our hearts on the Lord and allow the repentance to open us up. Our hearts can then be cultivated to produce good fruit. We soak in the love of the Son found in the healing Sacraments, the Eucharist, His Word, each other and find that only through repentance and cultivation can our hearts bloom as the rose blooms opening itself up to God and to others.