8th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Every Tree is Known by its Fruit

The community for which Luke wrote was very different from the original followers of Jesus. It was a group of people which had already gone through its initial fervor. The concerns of the early Christian communities are no longer present and they had already come to realize that Jesus’ return was not as imminent as the earlier disciples thought. It was a community getting accustomed to being around for the foreseeable future. These were Christians who needed to be challenged again to live a life of prayer, maintain total commitment to the Lord Jesus, shun reliance on money and live a community life that would be a visible sign to others that Christ was alive.

treefruitJesus is a very difficult model to follow - as much now as he was for the early Christians. He makes outrageous demands on our sense of the reasonable. He seems to believe that we can transcend all of the limitations of our fragile nature. He preaches the beatitudes and it sounds like a litany of foolishness: be poor, be meek, be hungry and thirsty, be persecuted and then you will be happy! Do this and you will be whole and holy like your Father in Heaven.

The spirituality Jesus is teaching is not just meant for the enlightenment and behavior of the individual. God’s love is effective only because it produces good fruit for the benefit of others. The ministry of Jesus flowed from his belief that living in love was living in God. He spent his life trying to share this belief with others and to allow that belief to transform their lives. Those who sat listening to his Sermon on the Plain heard his words - but more importantly, they saw him live those words to the fullest.

Every Christian community since then has sought to act as He acted, wanting to make the same Spirit that moved Jesus visible in society. Seeing, hearing, touching the hearts of others and speaking as he did are characteristics of all disciples. Loving God and loving neighbor requires the ability to be with people in their experiences of being vulnerable, broken, joyful, needy, searching and questioning.

These experiences are common to all disciples and they should be the means by which we can help others articulate more clearly and more meaningfully the reality of God's Spirit at work in their lives. But it is no easy task. We ourselves need to be affirmed again and again in the belief that our God is intimately a part of the ups and downs of our everyday lives. We live in love, we live in God. We are the potter's vessel, easily broken and yet we are temples of the Spirit. We are called to be bread: we are blessed, broken and we are given. And we believe that in these lived experiences there is a sacred presence that gives it all meaning.

The Lord tells us that everything and everyone is charged with God's presence. We are called to witness to this by our words and our actions. And this belief is at the heart of our faith, just as it was at the heart of Jesus' preaching, teaching and the way he lived his life. We can have hope, that in some small or even large way, change is possible because we have heard God's Word and experienced the living Christ through it.

Like Luke’s community, we continually need to hear again the instructions of the Teacher. This should always be our goal. This is our hope at each Eucharist shared together - that we will have our hearts and minds shaped by the Lord so that we can become more and more like him.