In the scriptures, illustrations that come from the land – metaphors about farm and field, about gardens and vineyards, trees and orchards, flowers and fruit – recur repeatedly. People who live close to the land will immediately understand the analogies about how things grow: about seeds, and soil, and sowing; about cultivating, watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. Jesus was well versed in these things, clearly, and he has a lot to say. In this gospel lesson, we hear Jesus asking rhetorical questions: “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?” No. Clearly not. Grapes are not gathered from thorns, nor figs from thistles. What’s the point?
Jesus’ point is about outcomes. If your end goal, your heart’s desire, is to harvest succulent grapes and figs, how will this happen? Only with intention.
You might find it helpful to apply this metaphor to the cultivation of your own soul. What is it that you long to be or become, and is there something in the way? For example, Saint Paul names what he calls “the fruit of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[i]That’s Saint Paul’s list. What’s your list? It could be quite a short list: the “fruit of the Spirit” you desire to mature in your own soul. If, for example, you desire to become more peaceful, that’s very revealing.
Two things. For one, there must be something that is compromising peace in your soul, and you know it. What’s the issue? Why are you unpeaceful? Is it the soil condition of your soul? Are there weeds? Are you dried up and withered? Is the garden of your soul undernourished or malnourished? Is there inadequate light? What is compromising God’s gift of peace in your soul? We could call that the bad news.
The good news is your awareness of need is already coming out of God’s provision. If you desire peace, that desire is coming out of a seed of peace already sown into your soul, a seed that wants and needs to be cultivated. Do you desire to be more generous, more kind, more patient, more forgiving? You already have the gift, God’s gift. It is already sown into your soul. The desire is the sign of the seed. The seed wants and needs to be cultivated.
How do you want to end up? At the end of today? At the end of your life? This requires intention. We have in God both partnership and provision for the cultivation of our soul. God’s invitation is to collaborate – to co-labor – with God in the cultivation of our soul: in our growing whole, free, and real.
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