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Good soil yielding fruit that will last...

Saturday, July 12, 2008
Br Lawrence Lew OP is on a month-long pastoral placement at the UCL Hospitals in London. Below is a reflection he has prepared for tomorrow, the 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). The readings are Isaiah 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23.

Christ the Divine Sower

Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, has been sent by the Father into the world. The Son has been sown in the earth, taken root in the soil of our humanity, and has become one with us. This marvellous truth, this wonder of the Incarnation of Christ, is that great thing that prophets and the righteous longed to see and hear but did not.

Yet you and I, who are baptized in Christ and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, are the ones whom Jesus calls ‘happy’ or ‘blessed’ because we have seen and heard Him whom so many before us, and so many around us, long for. We have not perceived this by our own efforts, but rather because of the gift of faith. The grace of the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts and it is the Spirit who teaches us, leads us into all truth, and gives us the gift of understanding. This is the source of our Christian joy for we, because of God’s generous love and the free gift of his grace, have seen and heard God’s divine Word, Jesus Christ his Son.

Just as the dry land thirsts for rain, so too, every human heart thirsts for God and desires the good news of God’s love and salvation. And it is our great privilege as living parts of the Church, the Body of Christ, to help quench the thirst of those who long for God’s love. For it is through the ministry of the Church that Jesus continues to be present in our world. This practical consequence of our faith is very evident in a place like this. Here, in these hospitals, those of us who are engaged in caring for the sick and serving those in need, are bringing God’s love and care to others, and often we can heal not just bodies but hearts and souls too, with a loving word, sincere concern and even just the gift of our time and attention. Thus we care for the whole human person – body and soul.

Good soil, that is, hearts that understand God’s word and are watered by God’s grace, yields a harvest and bears fruit. Just as a tree bears fruit which is attractive and delicious and offered to all who pass by to receive it and taste its goodness, so too with us. If we draw from God’s grace and live in Him, then we will bear fruit that will last and which our world longs for and needs so very much. St Paul tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Gal 5:22f). A hospital, it is apparent to me, is a place where these fruits are evident but also where they can be ripened, for here we can slowly and gradually develop these virtues, and indeed learn so much about them from those whom we serve. Together, our faith, hope and love – those 'higher' gifts of the Holy Spirit – will be attractive to those around us, like good fruit, and others will wish to taste that sweetness which is ours in Christ. This is why saints are such attractive people, and I know that I am in the presence of a saintly person when I am drawn to experience their peace and joy. In my brief time here, I have already seen several such people who inspire and bless me with their presence.

Isaiah says that God’s word does not return empty but achieves God’s purpose and prospers in the thing for which it was sent. But what is the purpose of Christ’s coming among us as a man? God’s purpose was that we should have communion with Him; that we should be raised up from our sins with the risen Lord Jesus; that we should become one with God and share his divine life. For this reason, God became human, so that humans might become ‘gods’. The fruits of the Spirit which I have mentioned are marks of this intimacy with God. God achieves this purpose of making us one with Him through his sacraments which give us a share in the life of Christ, and it is a gradual, life-long process that is not without pain and difficulty, as we know so well. For suffering is a mark of our humanity, just as Christ who became human suffered. As St Paul says: “all of us who possess the first-fruits of the Spirit, we too groan inwardly as we wait for our bodies to be set free” (Rom 8:23). Imagine the seedling breaking free from the seed-pod, straining towards the light, growing into a fruitful tree. We too are struggling, straining to become more fully who we are called to be, reaching for the light of heaven, and that is a painful process.

Ultimately, then, we long for union with God in a new creation which is described in the Book of Revelation as a world without pain, sorrow, tears, sin or evil. This is something we all hope for because it has been promised us, and God will keep and fulfill his promise, for he is good and faithful. This promise is made through the gift of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. For in the Eucharist we, together as the one Body of Christ, have Holy Communion with the Body of Christ; this is the “bread for the eating” (that Isaiah mentions) that makes us one with God. So, we take Communion to the sick not because it is magical or even because it primarily imparts physical healing (even though this miracle is occasionally possible), but chiefly because it makes us all – sick and carer – one in Christ and makes real the promise of a new creation and eternal life with God; it heals and strengthens our souls. Through a worthy reception of the sacraments, God’s Spirit dwells within us, and God’s Spirit will help us to be that good soil that will be fruitful and prosper, yielding the gift of eternal life.

It is God’s grace alone that accomplishes all this; not our effort. We on our part are to be soil, to be humus. That word for top-soil, humus, is the root word for the word ‘humble’. And that is what we are called to be: humble, grounded people, like Our Lady, so that God’s word can be sown in our hearts and take root there. As St John the Baptist said, “I must decrease so that He can increase”, and then like St Paul, we can say: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

Lawrence Lew OP


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