By Fr. Roy Cimagala
“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.”
With these words from the Gospel of St. Luke (cfr. Lk 13,1-9), we are reminded that we have to be fruitful not only materially but most especially spiritually. And that fruitfulness is a result of a continuing process of conversion and sanctification.
Earlier in that gospel, Christ said that unless there is repentance and conversion, we will all perish. And he illustrated this message further when upon seeing a fig tree that for three years was still not bearing fruit, he threatened to have it cut down. That was when the gardener pleaded to give the tree one more chance.
Let’s be frank about ourselves. We are all sinners! No matter how much we try to be good and holy—and to a certain extent, we can actually manage to achieve that ideal—we can still find ourselves falling into sin, if not big ones, then small ones, which can actually be more dangerous since we can tend to take them for granted, until we get used to them and would not feel anymore the need for repentance and conversion.
We have to understand that conversion is a continuing affair for all of us in this life. We can never say, if we have to follow by what our Christian faith tells us, that we are so good as to need conversion no more.
We are all sinners, St. John said. And even the just man, as the Bible said, falls seven times in a day.
Besides, it is this sense of continuing conversion that would really ensure us that whatever we do, whatever would happen to us, including our failures and defeats, would redound to what is truly good for the parties concerned and for everybody else in general.
That’s because conversion brings us and everything that we have done in life to a reconciliation with God, from whom we come and to whom we go.
Only when we are continually showing repentance over our sins and go through the process of conversion can we go on with our sanctification that has no other effect than to bear fruits of goodness all over the place.
Sanctification is and should be our main business in this life, our constant concern all throughout. And that’s simply because at the end of the day, at the end of our life, that is what truly matters. Everything else is meant only as a means, an occasion or a reason for pursuing this ultimate goal of ours.
St. Paul said it clearly: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thes 4,3) St. Peter echoed the same sentiment: “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written, ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” (1 Pt 1,15-16)
Christ, of course, repeatedly told us about this. “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48) And this ideal can be attained, not only after our death, but even now, as we cruise through this vale of tears of ours, because Christ does it with us and for us.
It’s when we sanctify ourselves that we can meet God’s expectation for us to be fruitful!