Summary: The seed that needs to die to bear much fruit needs nutrients; these come from composting the great temptations in our lives.
Tuesday of Holy Week 2013
“Unless a grain of wheat fall to the ground and die, it remains alone; but if it die, it yields much fruit.” As we continue our Holy Week contemplation of the death of Jesus, we encounter the prophecy of Isaiah about the Messiah. This is a later disciple of Isaiah, and he is certainly not speaking of himself. Rather, he is putting together a future servant of God with the ideal of Israel, and restoring that Israel to its original calling. Israel was to be a nation of priests, giving right worship to the One God, and standing as a beacon of Truth beckoning all nations to that right worship. It betrayed that calling by running after false gods and participating in their obscene idolatries. This prophet sees that in the future, another prophet would labor, it seems, in vain, but through his servant witness would bring all nations to the truth. This, of course, was a prophecy about Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This Jesus, speaking at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel, seems to have labored in vain. In fact, this Gospel talks about the two traditores in Christ’s entourage. The first, of course, was Judas Iscariot. We should note that John does not record a story of Jesus instituting the Eucharist at this meal, but it is almost certain that Jesus is giving Judas Iscariot his first communion. Think about it–receiving communion from the hand of Jesus. But it was a sacrilege. Judas took the morsel, but did not receive Christ. Instead, Satan–the adversary–entered into him. This should be a warning to all of us not to be in mortal sin, or planning any kind of sin, when we come to Mass.
But there is a second traditor, the biggest disappointment of the evening. At least Judas didn’t say one thing and do another. Simon Peter, however, this chief apostle, declared to Christ that he would follow him all the way to death if necessary. But Jesus knew his heart. Jesus knew his inner traitor, that his bluster concealed a panicky pusillanimity. By the end of the evening, Peter would be quaking before a mere servant girl at Caiaphas’s house. And he would be swearing he didn’t know Jesus, and even cursing Jesus to prove he was not a follower. But when the cock crowed, and when Jesus looked at Peter with loving forgiveness, he repented in tears.
All of us have been selected by the Father to be seeds planted in His garden. But all of us have some spiritual weakness. In Judas Iscariot it was greed for power and money. In Peter it was a set of inferior feelings that led him to treason. All of us are weak, bad seed if you will. Our adversary is constantly looking for those weak spots, because the last thing he wants is for us to grow up spiritually and bear fruit, especially bringing others to Christ and the Church.
But the Father knows our weaknesses even more, and is willing to supply what we need in order to overcome them, even to turn those weaknesses into strengths. I call this spiritual fertilizer and weed preventive.
Do you know what the best way is to keep weeds under control? Not with chemical herbicides, because they can kill the beneficial critters in our gardens. No, the best way to keep weeds out is to truck compost in. And, if I may risk grossing some of you out, compost is just well-rotted waste material. The Father is a master composter. He can take the trash, the garbage of our lives, our pride, lust, arrogance, laziness, greed–all of it–and turn it into protecting and nourishing and health-giving spiritual compost.
I’ve seen this work in many lives. If your primary temptation is pride, if you are constantly seeking rewards and recognition, pray to God for relief from all that. You may find yourself being overlooked even for obvious awards. That’s a blessing. You may find yourself being taken off projects you are perfectly suited for. You may find doors slamming all over your house because God is helping you to compost your pride. You can even help the process. When you feel slighted, give praise. Praise injected into pride is like a pitchfork turning a compost heap–it gets oxygen into it and helps the breakdown of the pride into useful and nourishing grace.
Once a plant has adequate compost, and the nutrients that come from it, growth is very rapid. It’s the same for our spiritual lives. So ask God to compost your big temptations, and give praise when He does. Because that’s a prayer that’s always useful, and always answered “yes.” Turn the spiritual garbage into spiritual compost, and spiritual growth cannot be far behind.