Today is the Feast of the Archangels with a reading from the Gospel of John in which Jesus encounters Nathaniel under a fig tree. It is only at the end of the reading that angels get a mention: “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) Otherside, Jesus is involved in the calling of the disciples, having found Peter, Andrew and Philip at work. He finds Nathaniel sitting under a fig tree. Micah 4:3-4 and Zechariah 3:10 suggest that “under a fig tree” may be a place of contemplation. It may be that Nathanael was a “thinker”. He wouldn’t accept anything at face value, but he would question and contemplate everything until he was sure of its truthfulness. On the other hand, sitting in the shade, eating the free figs, might indicate that he was just a lazy bum. Continue reading
When one hears the story of Jesus and the fig tree in today’s gospel, it has to strike you as one of the strangest in the Gospels. It seems completely out of character for Jesus to curse anything much less a fig tree. When the text goes on to include the detail that “it was not the time for figs” (v. 13), Jesus appears even more unreasonable, and the incident becomes more difficult to understand – and so most people do the “holy nod” – Jesus said it so there must be something there – and move on.