Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bear Fruit

Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs

You fool!  What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies.  And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind.  1 Corinthians 15:36-37

“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”  Luke 8:15

I have made vows to you, God; with offerings I will fulfill them, For you have snatched me from death, kept my feet from stumbling, That I may walk before God in the light of the living.  Psalm 56:13-14

What does it take to hear and embrace the seed that is the Word of God? 
Jesus goes to great length to be understood.  He did not present his teachings in words that only the learned could understand.  He presented his teachings with words and ideas which he hoped all could understand – often using common parables, analogies and symbolism.  However, if they still did not “get it,” Jesus would explain the meaning behind the story. 

For me, it helps to remember three core questions when reading any passage but especially the difficult-to-understand passages.  Those questions were first outlined to me by the Catholic poet-activist Rose Berger.
        What does it say?
        What does it mean?
        Why does it matter?

We can use some good historical sources to better understand the context of what Jesus was saying to his contemporaries.  Even though we are not farmers, we all still plant seeds in flower gardens, vegetable gardens or lawns.  We see those “bear fruit” when we can eat garden-fresh corn or tomatoes or pick flowers at their best.  We do not grow gardens for them to rot in the sun.  Jesus does not plant seeds in order for us to be eaten up by the birds of distraction or trampled by the boots of self-centeredness.  It is up to us to make sure we make the leap from what Jesus says to what it means and why it STILL matters in our lives today – two thousand years later.

Jesus answers those questions for us today in this passage written by St. Luke.  Some days, the homily helps us understand and embrace it.  If not, we can use aids like Living Faith, Our Daily Bread or Magnificat or various web-based services. 

“Why does it matter?” for me is the toughest question. To answer that, we have to “embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.”  The next step is to respond by acting on what we understand.
The Word does not really exist without our response.  It just sits on the shelf like an old copy of Life magazine or Reader’s Digest.  If we hear the Word, we must become a light to others.  If it says, feed the hungry, we must feed the hungry.  

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