Editor’s Note: Bishop Etienne has provided us with a visually striking message about discipleship and its fruits. As springtime draws nearer, and with it the promise of renewed growth, it’s important for each individual and each parish to take stock of the fruit they’re bearing.
By design, the Creator uses the things of this world to teach us of the things of heaven. Our practice of harvesting the fruits of the earth is meant to help us understand that God is also looking for a bountiful harvest from each of us! The fruitfulness of our lives has eternal implications.
Farmers sow seeds with the expectation of reaping a harvest. Likewise, God creates each person in his own image and likeness, bestowing unique gifts upon every one with the expectation that our lives will advance the Kingdom of God. We are familiar with the Gospel story of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9). The seed sown is the Word of God, and the Lord plants this seed in every human heart. However, when we lack understanding, or experience trials or worldly anxiety, or pursue only the wealth of this world, the seed does not bear much fruit. On the other hand, when the Word of God is received and acted on then that person yields a bountiful harvest!
We must be attentive to our relationship with Jesus.
Another familiar Gospel story describes the gifts that God gives each of us, and that there is an expectation that we do something with them. This story is known as the Parable of Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30). Interestingly, this story comes just before the great teaching of Jesus about the last judgement!
In this story, a man goes on a journey, but before leaving he calls in his servants and entrusts to them his possessions (Is this not what God does with each of us? Entrusts to us the gift of divine life through his Son, Jesus?). Eventually, the man returns (Jesus has also promised to return). And each person is called to give an accounting of the stewardship entrusted to his or her care. Those who multiplied the gift were rewarded. Those who did not increase their gifts lost what was entrusted to them.
One other Gospel passage regarding fruits can be found in Matthew 12:33. “Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit.” That one does not seem to need much interpretation!
Jesus makes it clear that the life of the disciple is to be fruitful. He also gives us instruction regarding the cultivation of such fruitfulness. “The greatest among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 23:12) “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10: 39) The fruitful Christian life is about serving others.
Jesus instructs his disciples about the abundance of God’s work when he said: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
With these inspiring words from scripture, we must ask: “Do I know the gifts entrusted to me by God? Am I generously exercising these gifts in gratitude to God and for the benefit of others? Have I heard Jesus calling me to follow him? How is Jesus calling me to serve others?”
Since God is hopefully expecting a bountiful multiplication of goodness from each of us, we can conclude that every parish is likewise to be a vineyard of good works! What is the harvest being cultivated in your parish? Does your parish have enough people to carry out the mission and ministry of the parish? Is the parish only concerned about itself and its internal ministries? Or does it have plenty of opportunities to serve people beyond the parish?
Are there lots of young people involved in the religious education program? Are there plenty of catechists to teach the faith? Are there numerous weddings each year, evidencing the desire of couples wishing to live the sacrament of Holy Matrimony? When was the last time your parish had a young man go to the seminary to study for the priesthood, or a young woman enter a religious community? What is the evidence that your parish is fruitful? How can your parish become even more fruitful?
When a tree is barren, it needs proper cultivation. (Luke 13:6-9) One thing which depletes the soil of the soul is consumerism. Consumerism contaminates our faith. Driven by excessive individualism and consumerism, for many, the parish has simply become a spiritual refueling station. Indeed, we come to Sunday Mass to be spiritually nourished and fed, but also to be incorporated into the Body of Christ and sent into the world on mission to share the Good News and to serve Christ in all those we meet.
The harvest is abundant, but only to the degree that we cultivate our relationship with Jesus Christ. We must continually renew a vibrant faith life. We need to ardently desire and actively seek the work and power of the Holy Spirit. We must be willing to talk about Jesus and our faith life with one another. We must spend less time consuming and more time producing the good works of faith.
We know what it is to pray and work for a good harvest every year. Let us be equally if not more attentive to the harvest God seeks from each of us!