By Fr Donald Chambers
The word ‘conversion’ appears ten times in the synod handbook, Vademecum. Its frequency is a critical clue to a primary fruit which Pope Francis hopes the People of God will experience while on the synodal journey.
“As Peter was changed by his experience with Cornelius, so too we must allow ourselves to be transformed by what God is inviting us to. Through the Synodal Process, God leads us on the common path of conversion by what we experience with one another. God reaches us through others, and he reaches others through us, often in surprising ways” (4.1, Vademecum).
Today’s gospel reading provides three exhortations to repentance. The third exhortation is gift-wrapped in the parable of the fig tree which, after three years of producing no fruit, is ordered cut down by the vineyard owner.
However, the vinedresser recommends to the owner to wait one more year for further cultivation and fertilisation. If the tree remains unfruitful, then cut it down.
The implicit message of the parable is that those who refuse to repent will suffer and eventually be ‘cut down’. Prior to that ‘time’, we are offered “one more year” of cultivation and fertilisation.
The call of the Synod process by Pope Francis is a ‘one more year’ moment given to the People of God to repent and convert to become fruitful fig trees. The call to conversion is both personal and pastoral.