SMC 7th October 2018
Why did God make you? What is the point of this life on Earth? Do you ever wonder? Perhaps we should, especially as we celebrate Harvest festival. The Penny Catechism was published by the Roman Catholic Church about a hundred years ago as a cheap and accessible instruction for first communicants. It’s a great simple introduction. It answers this question about why we were made right at the start: “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” In the same way we need to check how we cook something before we put it in the oven, or see if we have the right paint for the surface we want to decorate, or planting something in the right position, so we need to remember why we were created, before we start living our life doing something else or something contrary to what we are meant to be doing.
Our readings are concerned with this this morning. In Genesis 2, we heard God’s desire for us to work out our salvation with each other, our salvation is not an individualised thing, hence we attend to the needs of the community in our Christian discipleship, for we heard God say: “It is not good that man should be alone.” This doesn’t mean men can treat women as play things but it does teach us of our social identity as human beings, hence loneliness is a difficulty for many. One way adults exercise this care is through ministering to children, bringing them to Mass, teaching them to pray, talking to them about faith. Jesus reminds us of the importance of this in our Gospel today: “Let the little children come to me do not stop them.” And that’s why we want to continue to have a full time Children’s Worker, so that we can care to the best of our ability for the young and ground them in the faith. This is a faith in Christ who comes, as we were reminded in our second reading, “to bring a great many of His sons into glory.” Thus His own descending to earth and being made perfect through suffering.
This is the harvest of souls of which our Lord speaks in Matthew 9: “the harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few, therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.” This is a harvest of people coming to church, offering their lives in service to Christ in sacrificial way, this is a harvest of people who will be in Heaven with the angels and the saints. We see this work has already begun to be collected in the lives of the saints. And in this Black History Month it is particularly good to remember that many of those Saints were from black communities. Jesus was not a White British man, of course, despite the paintings we see of Him so often. And we certainly know of some black people in the New Testament: think of the Wise Men who visited the infant Jesus, one of whom is normally depicted as being black. Think of Simon of Cyrene, depicted in the Fifth Station of the Cross, who was from Africa and whose children, Alexander and Rufus became Christians. And then in Acts 8 we read of St Philip the Deacon travelling along the road and meeting a devout, Eunuch, a respected member of the court of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian man, whose name we are told, is baptised and He follows God. There are great saints like St Augustine of Hippo and his mother St Monica; like St Martin de Porres; and countless besides. Souls won for Christ! Harvested already.
We thank God for the harvest today, for the fruits of the earth and all we enjoy and we pray that humanity may be better any distributing those resources. And we remember Jesus uses the harvest image for our own salvation. When John the Baptist appears on the scene he explains that Jesus will be coming with his “winnowing fork in his hand, He will clear His threshing floor and will gather His wheat into the granary” (Matthew 3:12). The first stage of the process in Biblical times would have been threshing . Threshing happened by throwing the harvested grain on a stone floor outside that had been created for this purpose, the threshing floor. On that an animal, an ox or a donkey, would have walked round, with a threshing sledge. That broke the grains, separating them from the husks and straw. Then you needed to take the grain and winnow it, lifting it up on the floor with winnowing fork and throwing it up in the air. The wind would have blown the chaff away, the lighter stuff, the rubbish, the useless stuff, and you would have been left with the grain, ready to store and make whatever with it.
Two important things this teaches us. First, what will separate the wheat from the chaff is what is heavier and this reminds us of the importance of having substantial spiritual practices of our faith. The more layers we have to our discipleship, the more varied our spiritual practices, the more obvious they are, the more embedded they are, the firmer our faith will and less like to be blown away like chaff. Being at Mass, saying Morning and Evening Prayer, making a confession, saying the rosary, giving sacrificially, loving our neighbour, works of mercy: all these will ensure when some stormy wind comes along our wheat is big enough to remain on the fork. Think of an anchor that needs to be ground. Having a faith that is just about our own happy thoughts about God and angels isn’t strong enough, it needs to be grounded in something more. And the we’ll be solid enough to face temptations and trials and the assaults of the world.
Secondly, we have accumulated stuff in our lives we do not need, stuff where we become concerned about our body, its appearance and strength; stuff where we
And after all this the grain is stored in the barns. They’re safe. They’re strong. There’s nothing impure left. Heaven is that barn to which we are called, where we’ll also be with the other grains that have gone through this process. That barn is the goal for us. Because what we were created for, “God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”