God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” God also said: “See, I give you every seed-bearing plant all over the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit on it to be your food; and to all the animals of the land, all the birds of the air, and all the living creatures that crawl on the ground, I give all the green plants for food.” And so it happened. God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good. (Genesis 1:28-31)
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5).
I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. (Luke 6:47-48).
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. (John 15:16)
This is the fifth in a series of articles on hearing God “speak” to us. In the previous articles, we discussed the many different ways God can speak to us including prayer, meditation, worship (especially at Mass), and Scriptures. We also discussed how God can also speak to us through another person and through the circumstances of our lives. However, do we really believe that God can speak to us in a way that we can know it is from him? In this article, we will address this question by describing how important it is to know who we are in Christ, to come to him as a “new creation,” and to listen to him.
At creation, when God looked on everything he had made, he deemed it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). And at the center of this “very good” creation were man and woman-strong, fertile, and virtually bursting with the command to be fruitful and fill the earth (1:28). But then they disobeyed God. Sin and death entered the world, darkening the splendor of creation and infecting its glory with sin. Our relationship with God was broken and the sweet, abundant fruit that should have been borne became bitter and scant.
In horticulture, when a desirable plant is susceptible to disease or too tender to withstand certain climatic conditions, it can be grafted onto a hardier stock. The resulting plant then bears the fruit of the tender stock, while remaining resistant to heat, cold, disease, and pests. For example, a hardy orange tree that bears sour fruit may have sweet oranges grafted on and bear good fruit for years.
Eventually, however, the sour fruit of the rootstock will reassert itself. God knew this, of course. So when we fell from grace, he didn’t graft desirable qualities from one person onto the suitable bits of another. He knows that eventually the sour fruit of the rootstock would reemerge. No, he ordained a whole new creation and sent his Son into the world to make us into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches that have been grafted onto him (John 15:4-5). In Christ, we now have potential to bear good, sweet, godly fruit.
How is this to be? Jesus gives us the answer in Luke 6:47. Come to me, listen to my words, and act on them. When we come to Jesus in prayer, in worship, and in the Eucharist, we engage in heartfelt dialogue with our Savior. As with any other conversation, part of our conversation with Jesus should include listening to him. After all, he wants to speak to us. He wants to tell us about his Father and his love for us, about ourselves, about his hopes and plans for our lives and this world. But most of all, he wants to convince us that as we remain in him, listen to him, and do what he says, we will be able to stand unshaken, bearing the fruit for him that will last all the days of our lives (John 15:16)
“Jesus, thank you for making me a new creation. I want to come to you and hear from you today and everyday. I want to live as an example of your mercy and compassion. Help me to hear your voice and act on it according to your will.”
Maurice Blumberg is Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men Center. Their website is at: (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- 1. Take a few minutes to read and meditate on the above Scriptures. What do you think God is trying to say to you through them?
- 2. At the beginning of this article, this question is asked: “do we really believe that God can speak to us in a way that we can know it is from him?” What is your response?
- 3. Why do you think it was necessary for God to make us a “new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)? What was the cost to God? What did we gain as a result?
- 4. Why do you think Jesus says in Luke 4:47 that we are not just to listen to his words, but also to act on them? Share a time when you did this. What as the fruit of it?
- 5. In John 15:4-5,16, Jesus says that if we are to bear fruit that will last we must remain in him. Why is this so? How well are you at doing this as you live out your day?
- 6. If you are in a men’s group, pray for one another that the Lord will give you the grace to listen to him and act on his words. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.