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Luke 13:1-9

Ephrem the Syrian tells us that the report about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices might have occurred on Herod’s birthday, as Pilate’s way of making clear his displeasure by killing Herod’s associates. St Ambrose sees them as, symbolically, representing those who, under the influence of the devil, offer sacrifices impurely; their prayer became sin.

Ephrem reads the parable of the fig tree symbolically – he sees in it the history of Israel. The tree itself is the synagogue, and the three years represent the three captivities of Israel; only those Israelites who bear fruit will not be uprooted.

St Augustine sees the tree as the whole human race: the first visit by the Lord was in the time of the Patriarchs; the second was through the law and the prophets; the third is now, with Jesus. The tree should have been destroyed, but Christ, the merciful one intervenes; he knows that it will, with the application of grace, bear fruit in parts.

St Cyril of Alexandria sees in the parable the inevitability of the Jews falling into the miseries which their faithlessness deserved, with the Church replacing the barren tree of the synagogue. Christ is the vinedresser, he constantly prunes away whatever is harmful in our souls, and fills us with rational and holy seeds so we may bear fruit for him.

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