Producing Abundant Fruit through Life According to the Spirit, 29th Saturday (I), October 24, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24, 2015
Rom 8:1-11, Ps 24, Lk 13:1-9

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Yesterday in the Gospel Jesus instructed us, like meteorologists, to read the signs of the times and prudently to make peace with God and others along the journey of life. Today he begins with what happens if we ignore that warning. He describes two seemingly random disasters — being in the wrong place at the wrong time in the temple when Pilate’s soldiers murdered protestors against a water system he was trying to establish with Temple money, and being within or around a tower in Siloam when it collapsed — to make the point that unless we are actively reading the signs of the times that Christ’s kingdom has come among us and we need to convert to enter it, unless we are making peace with God and others through asking for mercy and sharing it, we, like the victims of these two events, will tragically perish without being ready. These events are not punishments, but things like this happen, and unless we we’re heeding the indications he’s given to us to live each day as if it might be our last, we may be caught unawares.
  • Jesus builds on the theme with the parable of the fruitless fig tree. Fig trees normally take three years to mature and if they’re not bearing fruit by the third year, they’re likely never going to do so. Likewise if we’re not bearing fruit in our Christian lives after quite some time in our life — fruit in acts of loving adoration of God, thanksgiving, prayer, fruit, loving service of others, zeal for holiness — then we’re like a barren fig tree and are wasting all God’s graces just like the fig tree was wasting the soil. The parable, however, has often been called the Parable of the Second Chance. The figure who represents Christ asks for the time to cultivate and fertilize the ground so that it may have another shot. That’s what Christ does for us, fertilizing the soil with his blood. But the parable tells us, too, that there will be a time when there will be no time left. There’s a time when after that fertilization, if no fruit is being borne, the tree will be cut down. So there is an urgency. We have no foundation for us to think we have ten, twenty or fifty years to bear fruit. Reading the signs of the times of those who die at our age in life or even younger, now’s the time for us to be focused on bearing fruit in Christ.
  • How do we do this? How do we bear this fruit? St. Paul describes it powerfully in today’s first reading. He says it’s through a “life according to the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit seeks to raise us from the dead so that we might bear fruit together with Christ. “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you,” St. Paul writes. For this to occur, we need to put to death in us life according to the flesh, living according to our instincts and pleasures, giving full reign to the old Adam in us. Life according to the flesh is the life of the barren fig tree. St. Paul describes what the works of the flesh are in his letter to the Galatians: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions,  occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” But he also describe the “fruit” of life according to the Spirit. He uses the word fruit instead of works because fruit requires two principles, a male and a female principle, indicating for us that the “works” are all our own doing but the “fruit” is our cooperation with what God is doing within us. “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control.” That’s the type of “figs” we should all be bearing together with the help of God within. If we’re living with the Holy Spirit, we’ll never be caught unawares and we’ll always be ready, whenever our time comes.
  • Today we celebrate the Feast of someone who lived in this way. St. Anthony Mary Claret was born in Catalunia in 1808. I once happened upon his birthplace walking in the Pyrenees back in 1993. I prayed at the place he was baptized. I pondered the meaning of his life and my life. And I’ve always had a devotion to him and to the way, living by the Spirit, he bore such great fruit for God. He was so passionate about spreading the faith and loving others in the Lord’s name that he was named a missionary Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, where he worked so hard for such a long time to help the Cubans grow in faith. He founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate to help many others cooperate with the Holy Spirit like Mary did and taught the early Church during the pre-Pentecost decennium to do. He was recalled to Spain by the Queen to be her chaplain and he used his office, through the power of the queen, to do a tremendous amount of good. There was suffering, there was division, but he tried always to help people respond to God, to bear fruit, to put to death whatever in them is earthly. One of the other connections I have with him is through his spiritual sons, called the Claretians. Three years ago, I visited in Barbastro, Spain, what is now called “The Seminary of Martyrs.” On July 20, 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, a group of anarchists firing muskets burst into Barbastro’s Claretian Seminary of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They rounded up all those present: the three priest formators, the seminarians preparing for priestly ordination, and the Brothers of the community who worked in the seminary and received formation, 51 in all. After taking a census and roughing some up for sport, the three priests were brought to the city jail and the rest were brought across town to another religious house that the anarchists were using as a makeshift holding cell. Over the course of the next month, they were taken in waves to be slaughtered: first the priests on August 2, shot in the cemetery; then the six oldest of those who remained, who were scourged with wires and cords to the point of death and then shot; on August 13 and 15, in two groups of 20, the Claretians prepared for and celebrated the Assumption of Our Lady by seeing her in person; and on August 18, the two last Claretians, who had been sick, were executed. When I visited the room with the remains of the 51 martyrs, arranged in small, transparent caskets with their names on the outside and their bones visible on the inside, I knelt down to pray. When I opened my eyes, I looked at the remains in the casket in front of me, a seminarian named Josemaria Ormo. The first thing I noticed was the bullet hole into the top of his skull, meaning that he was shot kneeling. I called the attention of the priest next to me to it and he then pointed out to me the crushed skull of the martyr’s remains in front of him. We were both stunned. It’s hard to believe that not even that was the most powerful part of the visit. The letters they wrote were. While the Claretians were awaiting their deaths, they wrote to their families, fellow Claretians, murderers and the whole Church on any writing materials they could find — on the bottoms of piano benches, on wrapping paper for chocolates, on the insides of walls — hoping that these last testaments would be discovered after their death. One of the seminarians wrote in Latin a phrase that indicated their bravery, that they saw themselves as the successors of the valiant gladiators of old: “Christe, Morituri te salutant,” “O Christ, those who are about to die, salute You!” But their overall message was one of comfort to their families of origin and in religious life, telling them not to be sad, but to rejoice, because they were about to be martyred and would pray for them from Heaven. They wrote that even though they would not have the chance to preach the Gospel from pulpits, they would preach it even more powerfully by their witness and, like St. Therese, spend their eternity doing good upon the earth. Finally they wrote that they forgave their assassins, begging God to accept the shedding of their blood as a prayer that He not hold their sins against them. They were tremendous witnesses to the fruit that St. Anthony Mary Claret bore through his responding to the calling and life of the Holy Spirit. Through this great saint’s intercession, may God help us to bear similar fruit as we unite ourselves here consciously to Christ’s sacrifice and build in him not a leaning or falling tower, but a strong ladder in the Holy Spirit leading us and others to where we hope to meet St. Anthony Mary Claret one day!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ROM 8:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus
has freed you from the law of sin and death.
For what the law, weakened by the flesh, was powerless to do,
this God has done:
by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh
and for the sake of sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
so that the righteous decree of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who live not according to the flesh but according to the spirit.
For those who live according to the flesh
are concerned with the things of the flesh,
but those who live according to the spirit
with the things of the spirit.
The concern of the flesh is death,
but the concern of the spirit is life and peace.
For the concern of the flesh is hostility toward God;
it does not submit to the law of God, nor can it;
and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1B-2, 3-4AB, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Alleluia EZ 33:11

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion that he may live.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 13:1-9

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

 

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