• Needed: A good gardener

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    [3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C, Feb 28, 2106 Exod 3:1-8a, 13-15 / Ps 103:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8+11 / 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 / Luke 13:1-9]

    I once taught a course for Moral theology in a Jesuit university. How much I enjoyed it! Seeing as it was my first time, I was very open to learning how best to teach the students and also qtuite modest in my aspirations – I would just try my best. At the end of the semester I saw that the course went very well. The students wee delighted and some were even saying that it was wonderful and inspirational. They wanted to canonize me already or maybe they were just saying that to please me just before I gave them their final exam! In one moment I was daydreaming, imagining myself receiving the non-existent best teacher of the year award and how many students would flock to my future courses.

    This is why St Paul advises us to be vigilant as “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) What could the fall be? To lose the freedom I have in teaching. At the beginning I lived it as a gift and with freedom. When we appropriate it for ourselves it is a hard task to live up to. We stop seeing it as a gift, as the work of the Spirit in us. We feel under pressure to perform, to live up to expectations. Instead of living in freedom we feel as the rock band Queen sang: “Under pressure!”

    What helps us on the Lenten journey is humble self-knowledge. As St Thomas a Kempis reminds us in his spiritual classic The Imitation of Christ: “A humble farmer who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars.” (Book 1, ch.2) Of course there is nothing wrong with astronomy as long as we do not neglect our soul. It is said of the man who does little to care for his spiritual life: “A man who cares little for his soul will only understand its importance after he dies.”

    Humble self-knowledge comes from the encounter with the living God. In the first reading of today (Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15), Moses encounters the living God. He speaks to him, “Moses! Moses!” and he responds, “Here I am.” Here I am as I am, in my truth. This is me. Only I know who I am in front of the Great I Am. The Second Vatican Council stated that the mystery of man is uncovered only in the mystery of Christ (cf. Gaudium etspesno. 22).

    Constantly we need to look at Christ, to seek his face in different situations. Lord, let me see your face in this person, in this situation. What do you want, Lord? At the moment here in Manila we have a beautiful apostolate with many invites to give talks, retreats, recollections. So many people eager to listen to the Lord, to seek his face. Personally I am involved in teaching, giving talks, seminars, retreats. As Christians we should all be totally absorbed by the mission entrusted to us such that there should never be a dull moment.

    Our founder Rev. Fr Jaime Bonet stated: “The Total Christ, Head and members, opens to us in this way the most beautiful setting for our prayer, more than enough to clear up any routine and to stay totally taken by a living Jesus that needs me with all my being and constitutes the strongest motivation and reason for our mission. Our vocation becomes urgent and we need all the preparation and formation to correspond to Him, who commits and claims in an urgent way all our capacities. Only a complete and full-time dedication to the mission fulfils us.”

    Of course, for our Christian life to blossom, to bear much fruit, we need a good gardener! May Christ the good gardener be the one taking care of the garden of our lives. He desires to work so that we can bear more fruit. He cuts off every branch that does not bear fruit, so that the three can yield more. If we constantly turn to him he helps us be fruitful and fertile. In the gospel of today there is a fig tree that does not bear fruit. The owner is complaining that it has not borne fruit for three years but the gardener pleads with him to leave it for one more year. The gardener offers himself to cultivate the earth, to fertilize it and nourish it so that it can bear fruit.

    Christ is that merciful and hardworking gardener who nourishes us with his Word, who softens the hard earth with his sweat and his tears. He is patient and kind and believes in each one if us. He will not rest until we are fully enjoying this short life. He has come to give us life to the full. Lord, thank you for your patience with my life. We pray in this year ahead that our lives can really bear fruit!

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