I planted a garden this year. It’s not much: tomatoes, peppers and a couple of eggplants. However, it keeps my hands in the earth. I weed, water, fertilize, prune and wait, in patience, for the harvest. There is an old adage, “If you keep your hands in the soil, you will keep your sanity.” There may be a grain of truth in that. The practical labors of gardening and the patient waiting for the harvest keeps one rooted in the realities of life on every level.
Jesus often used farm based images as the basis of his parables (i.e. Matthew 13 contains the parables of the sower and the seed, the weeds and the wheat and the mustard seed). As we ponder these teachings, we understand the lessons they contain about life in general and the spiritual life in particular.
As I tend my garden I realize that I need to continually weed it. And so it is with our lives. If we do not periodically examine our manner of life and confess our sins, our lives can quickly be overrun by personal sin or simply extraneous activities that sap the time and energy we have for pursuing Christ and the true fruit of the Holy Spirit. Or worse still, our lives can become so out of order that we either accept the weeds (sins) as the normal or despair of ever really rooting them out of our lives. We need to make use of the sacrament of penance (the Lord’s version of Roundup) and apply this medicine on a regular basis.
Of course our spiritual lives also need to be watered and fertilized. If we do not pray, read, celebrate the sacraments and have some relationships rooted in which we experience genuine Christian community, our life in Christ will wither.
Finally, when our lives bear the fruit of the Spirit, we must realize that it will be picked. The love, joy, peace and patience grown in us by the Lord are so that we can bless other people. We cannot hang onto our neat and orderly lives. The fruit of the Spirit is not meant to be polished and photographed. It is meant to be given away and eaten up! Sometimes we may even feel that we are used. We must remember that “it is in giving that we receive and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” (from the Prayer of St. Francis)
All of this is done by the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of Life. Let us pray to ever be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, the gospel of Mark records that, “At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert…” (Mark 1:12). So it often is at the beginning of our walk with the Lord. The movements of the Holy Spirit are strong.
As we grow in the Lord, his movements become gentler. We do not always experience these strong movements. We are “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14). Having been trained in the Lord we habitually chose Christ’s way.
As we tend the garden of our hearts, let us be open to the movements of the Holy Spirit. If we are driven, let us be driven by the Lord. If we are led by the Spirit, let us follow that lead with faith, eagerness and joy. We want to bear good fruit for the Lord’s glory.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Bob Franco
PS: With the charismatic conference on the horizon, I am looking forward to seeing you at Magnificat High School later this month. May the Spirit of the Lord be upon us so that we may grow His fruit and follow His lead!