By Fr. Matthew Keller, C.PP.S.
“Leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future” (Luke 13:8–9).
Leaving the barren plant for another year may not make the most sense, but I think it says something about our God. First, that our God’s actions do not also make the most sense. Second, it says that our God is always there giving us another chance to bear fruit. Because this parable is really not about plants; it’s about us. We are the plant that is not producing fruit.
Sometimes we are not producing because we are still growing into maturity. At other times, we can be given all the resources needed to produce, but we are not using them properly. At other times, the Lord has given us the tools to produce fruit and we use them, but we do not know how use them to the fullest potential.
In Lent, we are called to investigate our hearts to see how we are growing into maturity in producing fruit for the Lord. We are also called to look at ourselves to see how we are not producing fruit for the Lord. Or even to see how we can put what the Lord has given us to better use. I know there are parts of my life where I am doing all three of these things.
In our scriptures today, we hear the call of Moses. I was on a retreat a few years ago when my spiritual director invited to me reflect on the story of the call of Moses. I read the story then I went out for a walk. As I walked, I reflected on how God called me. God called Moses out of the ordinary, while he was tending his father-in-law’s flock. In this ordinary life, God got Moses’ attention with a burning bush.
My call to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood and the priesthood came from the ordinary—it came through being put on the Community’s mailing list. I was received letters and was invited to events, and in that way, God got my attention. He sparked my heart, telling me, “I am calling you to this way of life.”
When God calls Moses to free the Israelites, God really does not accept Moses’ no. Moses questions, “Who am I to do that? What if the Israelites ask what your name is, and I do not have the gift to speak?” God answers Moses’ questions and God pushes Moses to get on with it, sunlight is burning, I am with you.
As I hear God calling me, I respond to God, “Am I ready for that task? No, God, I am not ready yet.”
God responds by saying, “I have blessed you with everything you need.” God assures me, “I am with you.”
With trust in God, Moses responds to God’s call and leads the Israelites out of Egypt. In doing this, Moses uses the gifts God has blessed him with to produce fruit. Likewise, we hear God’s voice, and we are called to respond in trust to our God and to answer that call. In hearing that call, we are given the tools we need to answer it.
The question for us is, are we using the tools that our God has given us? Prior to God calling Moses, Moses was using the gifts God gave him but not to the fullest. Many of us may be using the tools well, but this Lent, we called to see if we can be using these tools even better. So that we can produce abundant fruit for our God, how can we better use those tools?
Fr. Matt Keller, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Downtown Dayton Catholic Parishes, which includes Emmanuel, Holy Trinity and St. Joseph.