|Feast of St. Lawrence
2 Corinthians 9:6-10
Psalm 112:1-2, 5-6, 7-8, 9
Even as the new academic year approaches, I'm still in my gardening mentality, checking on the new growth, hoping that the tomato blossoms will soon bear fruit (or is it vegetable?) and wondering if the new perennials will survive the latest drought. I feel proud that the efforts of the late spring planting and the summer watering and weeding are beginning to show satisfying results.
So, it was with some amusement that I first glanced at today's gospel, where Jesus says, "...Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit." This metaphorical saying has always confused me. Even in my limited gardening experience, I know that if a seed actually dies (and I've had the unfortunate experience of planting seeds that were actually dead and nothing grew!), there will be no plant or fruit. When a seed is planted, it must have life in order to respond to the earth's nutrients, the sun and the rain. And it will respond by opening fully to what is within ... a plant full of life and eventually fruit and harvest. So, I wonder, why did Jesus use such an unfortunate choice of words? I have no answer to this.
However, I did realize as I pondered the gospel today, that perhaps I had been caught in my fixation on the "unrightness" of this passage, and was missing the meaning within the context in which it is set. The passage appears after Jesus triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, when the crowds have sung Jesus' praises. The Pharisees and chief priests are plotting how they will put a stop to the growing numbers who are following Jesus. Jesus is attempting to prepare his followers for the events leading to his death which are soon to take place. "If you love your life you'll lose it; if you hate your life in this world you'll keep it for eternal life. Anyone who wants to work for me must follow in my footsteps." These are difficult words to hear, whether then or now! How do I reconcile this saying with the great commandment, "Love your neighbor as yourself," which implies that one must be there with/for one's neighbor and oneself?
Today's psalm calls us to be persons who are gracious and lend, who conduct our affairs with justice, who give to the poor with generosity which will endure forever. If I lose myself, how can I love/give to another?
Paul's words to the Corinthians offer some insight: "Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully ... God loves a cheerful giver." God expects each of us, made in God's image, to make God's presence real in our day to day life. What gifts, talents, time and resources do I have? Are they solely for my life - to make my life better, or are they given to me to develop and share with others? How do I nurture these gifts from God so that I can be for/with others?
And, luckily, I'm not alone in my efforts. Paul reminds us that, "the one (God) who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed (gifts of life) and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
So, just as my small garden depends on my weeding and watering, along
with God's gift of rain, sunshine and the earth's rich nutrients, so do
I depend on God's assistance to become fully alive... to prepare to be
a rich harvest for others ... to not selfishly hoard my gifts, talents,
and time for my richness of life on earth. My life, my being, needs my
attention, my nurturing, my time out for myself, my quiet moments of prayer
and reflection ... so that I can be for/ with others. And, I don't have
to do it myself. God's nourishing Spirit of Life is always present to/within
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