Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13
The Holy Gospel According to Matthew 9:32-38
My wife and I had a relaxing and beautiful Fourth of July. She, Moira, and I road our bikes around town a couple of times. First to eat lunch at Subway. Then to go see Haley at work and get some of the vegan Italian ice she keeps telling me about. It was a day of peace, reflection and joy. A day to remember that we are free enough in this country that my wife and I can go riding downtown with our kids and not have to worry about being attacked. She can wear exercise clothes and not be in fear of her life or being beaten for exposing too much skin. A day in which we celebrate that freedom, but also have to think deeper.
The readings remind us about something that we often don't think about anymore in our society. Americans tend to think that freedom means I can do whatever I want, I don't need discipline... if I want this I eat it... if I want that I drink it. If I like this person I sleep with them. As long as I do not hurt anyone else, what does it matter? "You do you, and I'll do me." That's not freedom though. Freedom is not giving in to every single whim that your body, your desires, asks you to give in to. True freedom is being able to say "I know I want that fifth doughnut, but I also know it's not good for me. So I'm not going to eat it." True freedom is being able to step back from your situation to ask, Is this good for me? Is it good for them? Which action leads to a long term good not a short term pleasure? True freedom must produce fruit.
The stalk of grain that forms no ear can yield no flour
Though Hosea was talking to a people a couple thousand years ago, he could also very well give the same message to us today in the United States. We have become complacent. In our search to make freedom into our deity we have forgotten where we have been, who we were, and why we had become that people. A Protestant reformer once said that a man should just sin because where there is sin, God's grace abounds. So he encouraged people to sleep with their chamber maids when their wives weren't in the mood, or to eat till their stomachs were close to bursting in gluttony because somehow that made God's grace even greater. That just doesn't seem right does it? Why do evil so that good can come from it? Rather than do good that good can abound? When we forget our past... when we forget the things that have happened to us before... we fall into the same ruts.. the same sins... we stop producing fruit that is worth eating.. and become just a stalk of grain that has no ear... no flour... nothing worth eating.. and even what we have? Is feeding the wrong type of person.
The Gospel reminds us though that when Jesus looks out on us, lost and confused in the crowd, He looks on us with compassion. He sees us as a flock scattered in the mountains with ravenous wolves seeking to devour us on every side. He seeks to find us, first and foremost with the call in our hearts.. but secondly by sending the Church to find us.. to guide us.. to give us discipline.. yes discipline.. that we might be truly free. Sounds almost like an oxymoron doesn't it? But true freedom comes form discipline.. it comes from putting our emotions, our desires, and our urges on the back burner and asking.. what is the true good that I need to do? How can I produce fruit? He calls us not just to be the fruit.. but also to be the laborers of the harvest. That means that we first have to discipline ourselves.. but then to go out and help others to see the beauty of what Christ has to offer us.. by living it with joy, with peace, and with patience. He wants to heal us... so that we can go out into the fields and help others to be healed too.
So are you doing that? Are you working to produce fruit? Are you trying to help others produce good fruit too? That's why we Catholics consider it our responsibility to get involved in politics, in education, in all walks of life... why? Because fruit is there... it's either good or bad... and we must stand up and say "This is wrong." or "This is right!" That's a fruit right there! To stand up against the grain of what society tries to tell you is good and say "No. That only seems good... and it probably feels good in the moment.. but it leads you to a place that is not good.. and does not feel good." That's true love..... not just giving others what they want.. but rather giving them what they need. The harvest is plentiful and abundant and Christ is calling you to go forth and help those who are struggling.. the ones who aren't producing fruit.. the ones who are falling away and starting to lose soil... starting to lose root... and saying Here, let me water you... let me feed you.... Let me serve you the least of these.. the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the sinner and the saint.... let me help till the soil and draw the bucket.... that you too might join me in producing the grain that Christ has sent us to grow...
That's our calling.. not just to think about ourselves... but to try to help every person we meet to come into a living relationship with Christ... to get to Heaven.... because that's the goal isn't it? Starting with working on ourselves and our families... but then.. going into the world and living in a way that says I am producing fruit and you can too.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."