“On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, ‘May no one ever eat fruit from you again.’ And his disciples heard it. ”
—Mk 11:12-14, NRSV (See also Matthew 21:18-22)
Continuing with commentary from Sheed in To Know Christ Jesus, it may seem as though this incident is an aimless display of power. A detail in Mark’s account makes it even harder for us to understand – he tells us it isn’t even the season for figs! Here are Sheed’s thoughts:
Jesus was teaching by parable, not telling it but acting it. The point of the fig-tree parable is the damnableness of an outward show of religion with none of the fruit of religion, which is the love of God and man.
He was teaching not about fig trees but about men. And it is always the season for men. There is no off-season in which it would be against the order of nature for men to do their duty to God or their fellows. There is something here not altogether unlike the condemnation passed upon Satan after the Fall of our first parents – that henceforth he should go on his belly. How could a pure spirit go on his belly? But God was talking to Satan in serpent language. And Jesus is warning men in fig-tree langauge.
The Twelve could make nothing of the incident. Peter, for them all, asked what it meant. What Jesus may have answered as to the meaning, we are not told. Matthew and Mark simply record his promise that they themselves should do things more spectacular than willing a tree to its destruction, provided only that they had faith. A mountain would cast itself into the sea at their command, so long as there was no weakening in their faith – no staggering in their heart, says the Douay version. We get this phrase only in Mark (11:23): Mark got it from Peter himself, who would never have forgotten how his own heart staggered so soon after. (p.333)
WE ADORE YOU, O CHRIST, AND PRAISE YOU.
BECAUSE BY YOUR HOLY CROSS YOU HAVE REDEEMED THE WORLD.