The Emperor Napoleon
had a rule in his army that anyone who went absent without leave,
on being captured would be shot the next morning at breakfast time.
There was a boy of seventeen who had seen many of his companions die.
Scared, he ran away, but he was caught and was sentenced to be executed
next morning at breakfast time. It so happened that this boy was the
son of Napoleon’s cook. The mother went to plead for mercy. Eventually,
Napoleon order her out of his sight saying, “Woman, your son does
not deserve mercy.” To this she replied, “Yes, of course, you are
right. He does not deserve mercy. If he deserved it, it would no longer
be mercy.” These words made Napoleon think again.
Mercy is not mercy if it is deserved. A gift is not a gift
if it is deserved. Gifts and mercy are what we get from God. Often
the gifts are extremely well disguised – sometimes so well disguised
that it takes a lifetime to recognize them as gifts! What comes to
us from God, good or bad, is totally undeserved. But even if it is
unsolicited and undeserved it calls for a response from us. These
are the paradoxes of God’s ways of working with us, and Jesus is trying
to grapple with them in today’s Gospel Story.
“At that time some were present who told them about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices… and about the
eighteen who were killed by a falling tower in Siloam. “He made it
quite clear that what had happened in these two current events were
not punishments for the sins of the participants. Yet, he challenged
his listeners to repent or such things may happen to them! While there
is no cause and effect between what happens to us and our good or
bad behavior, we are still challenged to behave in a better way.
Then he goes on to tell the story of the barren fig tree. The
nature of a fig tree is to bear figs and so the master is angry with
the tree that is barren. He orders it to be cut down but gives a reprieve
for one year when the vine dresser pleads that it be given another
In meditation we are being still before the Lord so that our
better nature can be called forth. We are not there out of fear of
punishment or in an effort to put God in our debt. We are just there
to be with BEing itself. As we do this we cannot but become more honest
and seek to act more in accordance with our better nature. We will
also become more perceptive of God’s Mercy and his gifts as they appear
in our lives.