Throughout our childhood years we learn to listen to those in authority. If we do not, we learn the consequences of not doing what we are told. Our parents, teachers, and even clergy give us ‘fair’ warning. If we do not change our behavior, we will have consequences. Eventually we learn, or we suffer.
At that time, there were some present who told Jesus of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered thus? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “Luke 13.1-9
In today’s Gospel lesson, Christ gives us fair warning. If we do not repent, we will suffer like those who came before us. Their sin was no worse than our sin. Our sin is no worse than someone else’s sin. Suffering isn’t about sin, as much as it is about not repenting.
Suffering is also about defending Christ. Today is the Feast of Saint Nektarios, who suffered not because of his lack of repentance. Saint Nektarios suffered because others were fighting against Christ. He suffered because he was standing up for Christ, not for himself.
So, why not suffer for Christ instead of suffering because we do not repent. When we suffer for Christ, at the hands of others who are fighting against Christ, then our suffering leads to glory. This was the case with Saint Nektarios.
When we fight against Christ, and we choose not to repent, then we will suffer without glory. If we repent, if we change our mindset for Christ instead of for ourselves, then our suffering will be for the glory of God.
So, we have received fair warning from God. Either repent and suffer in glory like Saint Nektarios, or don’t repent and suffer without glory. The fig tree was given another chance. We have now been given another chance. Don’t waste it fighting against Christ.