Exhausting the “Soil” of Mercy

March 20, 2022
Third Sunday of Lent (Year C)
Note: When the Scrutinies are used at Mass, the reflection for Year A may be used in place of this one.

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“Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.”  Luke 13:8–9

Every gardener knows that good fruit is, in part, dependent upon the presence of good soil.  But other factors are also important in the production of good fruit.  The plant must be free of disease, receive water and sun, be planted in a warm environment, be properly pruned, and have enough space to grow.  When all factors are present, good fruit is guaranteed.

So it is with our lives.  The soil in which we are to be planted is the mercy of God.  And this soil is the richest soil attainable for the production of the virtues in our lives.  God also produces the sun, the rain, and the warmth that is needed for our growth.  But, analogously speaking, we must allow ourselves to be pruned.  We must also allow the soil to be fertilized and cultivated in a variety of ways.  Though Jesus is the Gardener of our lives, it’s also fair to say that we are the gardeners in the sense that we must cooperate with our Lord, relying upon the supernatural resources of the Creator to ensure the healthy growth of our spiritual lives so that the good fruit of virtue may be born in our lives.

This passage above is the conclusion to the Parable of the Fig Tree.  Just prior to this passage, the owner of the vineyard, God the Father, ordered that the barren fig tree be cut down so that it will no longer exhaust the soil.  But our merciful Lord, sent on mission from the Father to till the soil of our lives, seeks to offer one more chance and the Father obliges out of love.  This life is that “year” by which our Lord works fervently to cultivate the soil around us.  We must cooperate through daily prayer, fidelity to His commands, acts of loving sacrifice and surrender to His providence.  In the end, if we allow our Lord to do all He desires, our lives will bear good fruit.

But on the flip side, make no mistake about the fact that, if our lives do not bear good fruit, we will be “cut down.”  Bearing good fruit is not an option, it’s a must.  It’s a clear indication of our spiritual health and it will become the measure of our eternal reward or eternal death.  Do not be intimidated by such sharp language coming from our Lord.  He spoke it in love so that we will know the serious duty we have to bear good fruit in our lives.

Reflect, today, upon the outward signs of your inward spiritual health.  Do you see the virtues sprouting forth from your life?  Are you aware of the work God desires to do in your soul so as to cultivate it and fertilize it with grace and mercy?  Say “Yes” to Him this day and allow that grace to produce an abundance of good fruit.

My virtuous Lord, I invite You into my soul to cultivate it and fertilize it with Your grace.  Please prune my sins and help me to sink my roots deeply into the nourishment of Your mercy. I am sorry for the ways that I have failed to bear fruit in my life.  I now entrust myself to You so that Your care will remedy all my ills and weaknesses.  Jesus, I trust in You.

40 Days at the Foot of the Cross:
A Gaze of Love From the Heart of Our Blessed Mother
Reflection Sixteen – The Greatest of Miracles
(Third Sunday of Lent)

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Featured image above: The Vine Dresser and the Fig Tree By James Tissot, via Brooklyn Museum