One of the options for the Penitential Rite is to recite together the Confiteor: “I confess to almighty God and to you my brothers and sisters…for what I have done and what I have failed to do.” When we think of sin quite often, we think of those things we said and did that we should not have and are now sorry for.
Those are called “sins of commission.” Yet how often do we think of the opportunities to say or do the right thing and let those chances pass us by when it would have been the right thing to do? Those are called “sins of omission.”
At Mass last Thursday we heard the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man did not go to heaven because of anything he did to Lazarus but rather because of what he failed to do.
I believe this is the main thrust of Christ’s parable about the barren fig tree in our Gospel for this Sunday. What is a fig tree for if not to produce figs?
The owner is disappointed with the tree not because of any poisonous fruit it has produced, but because it has produced no good fruit. It is judged and found wanting because of what it has failed to do.
In our Gospel we hear Christ’s call to repentance. It is addressed to all of us. This call to repentance is not merely a call to turn away from evil, but a call to produce the fruits of good living. The Russian Philosopher and Psychologist Fyodor Dostoyevski once wrote ‘If we fail to accomplish acts of love, all our good intentions remain daydreams and our whole life will slip by like a shadow.’
I would like to finish with a short reflection What I fail to do:
It isn’t the things you do, it’s the things you leave undone, which give a little heartache at the setting of the sun. The gentle word forgotten, the letter you didn’t write; the flowers you might have sent are your haunting ghosts tonight. The stone you might have lifted out of another’s way; the little heart felt counsel you were hurried too much to say. The tender touch of the hand, the gentle and kindly tone; which we have no time or thought for, with troubles enough of our own.