On Friday, the parking lot behind the Newman Center went from full to empty in less than three hours. By Saturday morning the one or two remaining cars had left as well and it was totally empty. Except for a little snow.
Any break is a time for a retrospective, a look back on how things are going. How have we examined our own lives and efforts? Last week, before hearing Bishop Swain’s message for the CFSA collection, we talked about how Peter had an experience of gratitude as he witnessed Jesus Christ, transfigured in glory. That same gratitude that we try to foster, that same gratitude that springs up from our daily blessings, that same gratitude that moves us to be generous to God and the Church should also be a source of examination for us.
As we grow more aware of God’s blessings for us: life, family, friends, faith and more, we also become aware that these gifts are given to us to be used. This is part of our awareness of stewardship: what did God give us and how does He want us to use it?
The fig tree in today’s passage from Luke is described by St. Augustine as an image of the human race. The three years of the fig tree correspond to the three ages of faith: the first year is the time before the law of Moses- meaning the Ten Commandments, the second is the time after the law of Moses, and the third is the time of Christ. What then is the fertilizer and care that is provided in the third year?
The cultivation and fertilizer is the life of grace in Jesus Christ. The gifts of your baptism and confirmation, the privilege of Mass, the healing in frequent Confession, to name a few. The fact that we DARE to call the God of the universe such a personal and presumptuous title as “Father.” What then is the fruit we are supposed to bear?
The fruit we are to bear are more souls in the Kingdom of God- the Catholic Church. This then is our point of examination: are we living Catholics in the midst of our daily lives? Living our Catholic faith with deliberate choice as we work, play, and live has a simple title: it is the life of the Apostolate. The Apostolate is a term to describe our sending forth by Jesus Christ to be His hands, feet, and reconciliation to the world.
The life of the Apostolate is not simply a task for priests or nuns but is for all baptized Catholics. As a diocese, as we’ve gone through strategic planning, one question I don’t here parishes asking is whether they are doing enough to grow the faith through new members? More than parish sizes, traveling distance and priest numbers, what if we asked: “Who have I invited to Mass, who have I invited to become Catholic?”
If we feel to small or ill-equipped for such questions, remember the fertilizer. We have been cultivated and fed, now we need to dig our roots into the gifts God has given us so that we may bear fruit for Him at the time of harvest, the end of our lives and the judgment of our souls. Unless we be cut down and burnt as fuel in the fire.