Sunday, August 31, 2014
The Two Baskets of Figs
From Bible footnotes: “Jeremiah, like Ezekiel, saw that no good could be expected from the people who had been left in Judah under Zedekiah or who had fled into Egypt; good was to be hoped for only from those who would pass through the purifying experience of the exile to form the new Israel.” (Senior 980)
If there is time in your day, read a bit about Jeconiah and the Chaldeans (Babylonians). If there is not much time, let us at least think about what God is asking of us when we experience exile, a time apart from places, persons or even events that are precious to us. God assures us that there is always an opportunity for distillation when we are apart. God reminds us that we experience the abiding presence of the Spirit when we are away from what we love. God tells us that those who are left behind, or sent away, are not the juicy first figs of the season; rather, they are the poor fruit that will not grace the banquet table . . . but that is loved by God nonetheless. God is the faithful, persistent harvester who nurses fruit from struggling plants. God is the hopeful, healing shepherd, going out to find the one sheep while leaving the ninety-nine behind. God is the patient, able silversmith heating metal to drain away the detritus and keeping watch that the precious ore is not poured away. God is the potter working the clay of our lives in hands that know us better than we know ourselves. As always with God, it is the inverse that proves true: those left behind are those redeemed; those sent away are the rescued. And here in these verses of Chapter 24, Jeremiah brings us the imagery of two baskets of figs . . . one with first fruits, the other with rotten offerings.
Yahweh says: I will look after them for their good, and bring them back to this land, to build them up, not to tear them down; to plant them, not to pluck them out.
And so we pray . . .
Good and precious God, we know that you are with us always, even when we must be apart undergoing transformation. We know that we are clay in your hands that you mold with intent and great care. Help us to abide with you as you abide with us. Guide us to hope in you as you hope in us. Teach us to love the world with you even as you love us. We know that true transformation comes with suffering, and that suffering is the path your son strode before us. But . . . because the darkness sometimes feels too permanent, we ask that you guide us. Because the light sometimes seems as though it will never return, we ask that you lead us. Because the figs we bear are sometimes bitter, we ask that you carry us. Because the journey you ask us to walk is sometimes too perilous, we ask that you be us. For all of this we pray. Amen.
Senior, Donald, ed. THE CATHOLIC STUDY BIBLE. New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.980. Print.
Adapted from a reflection written on June 14, 2007.