readings today are about fruitfulness; fruit that is given freely to others
for the benefit of all. Paul tells us in today’s first reading that
Jesus “equips the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the
Body of Christ.” The “holy ones” means you and me. This is our
Baptismal call. This is our invitation from God. We are called to be
generous in giving of our selves, and our gifts, so that the whole community
is enhanced. We are called to treat everyone with justice, mercy and
fidelity with the goal of creating one community; the People of God.
Jesus’ parable of the barren fig tree may seem less explicit, but it too
is talking about responding to our call and sharing our gifts. The
vineyard owner expects his fig tree to give him fruit, otherwise it is of
no use to him. His judgment represents God’s condemnation of our fruitless
(selfish) ways. The vinedresser offers to cultivate and fertilize the
tree in the hopes of a fruitful harvest. This shows God’s mercy; forgiveness
is offered yet again. Grace (the fertilizer) provides renewal.
But we, like the tree must respond. The tree must produce fruit or
it will be dug out. We must repent of our selfish ways or we too will
die. If we are not fruitful, if we do not give of our gifts for the
benefit of others we are of no use to God or to the building of God’s kingdom.
Our gifts are not given to us for our own growth, but so we can give to others
in service to the whole community for the common good. Paul continues
“the proper functioning of each part, brings about the Body’s growth and
builds itself up in love.” Each person is unique and has unique gifts, experiences,
circumstances and personalities that God asks him or her to share with the
The early church seems to have been blessed with an abundance of out-of-the-ordinary
gifts; preaching, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, discretion
of spirits and interpretation. Yet, these same gifts are present today
within the Church, we need to recognize, encourage and embrace each other’s
gifts, so that all may benefit from them. We need to help each other identify
our gifts and encourage each other to use them to build up the community.
This is not just for priests and religious. The laity are the ones
with the primary responsibility to bring Christ to the various sectors of
family, social, professional, cultural and political life -- because we are
the ones who are active in these sectors. We must really listen to
each other and be available and responsive to the workings of the Holy Spirit
in our lives.
Our response needs to be one of critical reflection about our life choices
and how our most deeply-held desires connect us to the God we believe in
and to each other. Our God is loving and compassionate. We are
called to be loving and compassionate in how we use our gifts and in creating
unity among the People of God. Unity in the Spirit really means solidarity,
i.e. love that cares despite the differences that divide us.
“Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.”