Friday, February 19, 2016

Time to break out the hoes.

This is truly an exciting time of year. The hazy shades of winter are slowly losing its grip and the day is returning to full splendor. The snow is retreating and soon the first signs of green will start to emerge. My mailbox has already beginning to fill with seed catalogs filled with pictures of produce in every color of the rainbow. I have loved these catalogs since I was a small boy and their arrival fuels my urges to dig in the dirt. There is something so satisfying about being able to grow your own yummy, nutritious food from a small seed.

We are also in the season of Lent where we prepare our hearts to receive the greatest miracle ever granted. For me Holy Week is the greatest week of the year. My emotions run high as we re-present the Passion of our Lord, standing in the congregation while everyone yells, “CRUCIFY HIM!” I have never been able to take part in that portion of the service. It takes all my strength to keep tears from flowing down my cheeks.

Then on Good Friday Jesus is gone, body committed to the ground. I have never experienced such utter loneliness as what I feel when I am in a Catholic Church and the tabernacle is empty. Last year my parish did a Tenebrae service. In this service the last seven things Christ said on the cross are read. After each reading a candle is extinguished. At the end you are left in total darkness, alone, as Christ would have been in the tomb. You will never experience the feeling of such loss except in Hell.

Holy week concludes on the Easter vigil where the year’s catechumens and candidates are baptized, confirmed, and brought as new members into the family of God. It is the single greatest celebration that mankind has ever experienced. Darkness is vanquished and Light returns to the Church. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! Imagine the torment you would feel if you misplaced your new born. Now imagine the joy you would feel when you found her again. Holy Week is like that for me but infinitesimally greater.

In part of the Easter Vigil the catechumens (unbaptized) are baptized. They become a new creation, an adopted child of God. Their sins are wiped clean and they begin anew. All of the faithful gathered also renew their baptismal vows.

In baptism God tills the fertile soil of our hearts. In each of us he plants a single seed. The seed is then germinated by the waters of baptism and we are given the command to be fruitful and multiply. It becomes our responsibility to tend to this seed, to nurture it, and help it grow. If we do our part that seed will grow to a strong plant and produce much fruit. Each fruit is full of hundreds seeds waiting to be spread to other catechumens and the light of God’s love will spread.

But how we care for that plant is up to us. Many neglect it. Many more let it die. They become infertile soil incapable of growing the love God has for each of us. But with God there is always hope. If those who fall away can see the abundance a fruitful garden can yield they can come to long for what that garden produces. This is where the real work of ministry, of tending the garden, begins. It is up to us to help the fallen away fix their infertile soil and then replant the seed of everlasting life.

Most of us are quite content living in our own garden. The abundant fruit is not shared with anyone and begins to rot on the ground. Rotting fruit attracts every sort of evil that will take over the garden and eventually destroy it. We are given an abundance to share with those who lack real fruit. This is the true meaning behind Jesus’ sermon on the sheep and the goats. Sheep share their abundance bringing new sheep into the flock. Goats do not and are cast aside. Goats need not the Shepherd for they have their reward.

Use this period of Lent, the lengthening of days, to tend to your garden so it may be fruitful and multiple bringing many sheep into God’s Holy flock.

My heart is full because the tomb is empty.

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