C Cycle _ 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time 19
What must I do to inherit eternal life? The young man posed that question to Jesus and if we had a definitive, without fail process to pleasing God we would most likely make sure we followed it? I believe God did give us exactly that when he said: “… hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is the one. You shall love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul, and all your might. These words …shall be on your heart” (Dt. 6:5-6).
It is so simple and yet it is the hardest thing we could be required to do. Love God will all our hearts. How do I do that and is my understanding of love enough to love God with all my being. I love my wife, my children, my grandchildren, great-grandchildren. I love my job, playing golf, fishing, nature, my siblings and so much more about life. Is there a way to love God while I am loving the things God created?
Of course, we can, and it is not going to be found by an intellectual pursuit of spirituality but in the very thing Jesus told that young man – follow him. If we would seek an encounter with the person of Jesus, we would discover the truth of why God was so insistent that we love him with all our being. Instead of seeking him we get sidetracked by seeking wisdom, understanding and knowledge about him and what we learn never gets to our hearts.
The problem with us not engaging our hearts in the pursuit of God is clearly revealed to us by God in the Old Testament and in the words of Jesus in the New ‘Testament. “The fruit of the tree shows the care it has had so does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.” What is the fruit we are displaying to others by our words? Just last week we were challenged by Jesus to be kind, merciful, slow to anger, to love by word and action. Today we are once again reminded by Jesus of how harshly we spot the sin in others while overlooking the sins in ourselves.
The fact we overlook them lead us to say and do things which reveal how far we are from loving God with our hearts, minds and souls. A good tree does not bear rotten fruit. What have we done to examine the fruit of our lives lately? Perhaps this is the one thought we should carry into our Lenten Season with a desire to yield ourselves to the hand of the master gardener. Yet I have come to believe it is not that we are bearing bad fruit nor are we bearing good fruit. We are bearing an undistinguished fruit.
Think about the taste and flavor of a summer vine ripened tomato compared to the hot house tomato you purchase in the grocery store at this time of the year. The tomatoes you purchase during the winter are tasteless and only add color to your salad or sandwich. Think of eating a honeydew melon in season vs out of season. Those at this time of year are devoid of sweetness and flavor. The difference is noticeable and yet we continue to purchase them and seem to ignore the fact they are not adding anything to our enjoyment of eating.
If the fruit of our faith is like winter fruit, then we are not making following God’s will appealing to anyone. We can forget trying to bring back our children to the faith or trying to influence someone at work attacking our faith, or anyone else we may want to influence. We are not even having an impact on our own fulfillment of being a Christian because we not even satisfying our own hunger.
St. Augustine told us our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Listen as God detailing the blessings that will be ours if we open our hearts to love him. “… it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you in a land flowing with milk and honey” (Dt. 6:3). In Deuteronomy chapter 28 God outlines all the blessings that will be given to those who “listen to him” stating that the treasure houses of heaven will be open for us and we will stand in awe at the things God does among us.
When is the last time you stood in awe at the things God has done? I can tell you I was in awe last week when someone told me the results of answered prayer because the answer can only be described as a miracle. But that was the second time of awe that month when God’s power was displayed. God has promised to change our hearts and if we pay attention to His words, we will discover His greatest desire is that we allow him to accomplish within us what we are attempting to accomplish on our own by our intellectual pursuit of Him.
Lent is beginning Wednesday, and I encourage you to make this Lent a season of repentance why not try something different. Make it a season of offering God your heart and daily say a simple prayer.
Come into my heart and show me your love. Touch my heart and move me to show you my love. Grow my heart and let me bear the fruit of being a witness of your love to those whom I love and to those I find hard to love. Then read the gospel of John chapters 13 through 17 (one chapter a week) and discover how God will change your heart if you attach yourself to Christ (I am the vine and you are the branches apart from me you can do nothing). Don’t try Lent this year without Christ coming into your heart