In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Think about that statement for a moment. If a neglected grain of wheat merely sits on a shelf in a barn, nothing happens to it. It stays just as it is with all its wonderful potential locked up inside its hard outer case.
But what happens when that grain is planted in good soil? It changes. It leaves behind what it was. Essentially, it dies to its old form. But in doing so, it becomes something new, something better, for as it receives nutrients, it grows, pushes up through the soil, and breaks through into the sunlight. Then it grows some more, reaching upward and producing its fruit, which will eventually feed and nourish others.
Jesus reminds us that the same thing can happen to us, but we must make a choice. If we choose to hold onto our old life, the life focused solely or mostly on the material things of this world, we're like the neglected grain on the shelf. We stagnate. All our potential is locked up inside us because we are too afraid to make a change.
If, however, we let go of ourselves and let God plant us in the good soil of His love, something wonderful will happen. He will nourish us, and we will grow and reach up toward the Light. We will even produce good fruit that will feed and nourish others. But most importantly, we will be obeying Jesus, Who tells us to die to ourselves that we may live for Him, and we will be with Him, for He assures us that “where I am, there also will My servant be.”
Tuesday – Be Brave and Steadfast
Moses is ready to move on. He's already 120 years old, and he's not getting around as well as he used to. God has informed him that he will not enter the Promised Land, for Moses, in one rash move when confronted by an angry people, had disobeyed God. Moses now knows that his time has come to die, but he has an important message both for the people as a whole and for his successor, Joshua: “Be brave and steadfast.”
Let's reflect on those words. The Hebrew word for “be brave” is châzaq, and it has a wide range of meaning. Literally, it means to fasten on to something. Figuratively, it can mean to be strong, conquer, be courageous, withstand, fortify, prevail, and be sure. Moses, and God through him, wants Joshua and the Israelites to stay focused on their goal of entering the Promised Land. They must fasten on to that objective and hold on tenaciously, fortifying themselves against doubt and fear and withstanding all challenges. They must be determined to conquer their foes and prevail, and they will.
The Hebrew word for “be steadfast” is also packed with meaning. Literally, it means to be alert, but it can also have connotations of courage, strength, and constancy. Again, Moses is emphasizing the need to keep going in the face of a difficult situation. Joshua and the Israelites must be alert and watch closely so they don't miss anything important. Then they must respond to what they see with courage and steadfast strength.
“Be brave and steadfast.” That might seem like a difficult task as the Israelites stand before an unknown land, one that is already inhabited by people who are not likely to give it up without a fight. How can they obey Moses in circumstances like this?
Moses has one final word of comfort that solves the dilemma: “It is the Lord Who marches before you; He will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.” God is in charge. He has a plan, and He will work to fulfill it. Joshua and the Israelites can be brave and steadfast because God is fighting for them. He will bring them into the Promised Land. He will settle them where He wants them to be. They have only to faithfully follow Him, for He is with them always.
The same can be said of us. God tells us to be brave and steadfast, and sometimes we wonder how we can be those things when we feel like frightened, weak little creatures. But God is with us. He leads us. He is fighting for us. He has a plan for our lives, and if we faithfully follow Him, He will bring us to where we need to be now and, in the future, home to Heaven to be with Him eternally. We have many reasons to be brave and steadfast.
Wednesday – Praise
Do you ever take the time to just praise God for Who He is and what He has done for you? Today's Psalm invites us to do just that: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth; sing praise to the glory of His name; proclaim His glorious praise.”
We often get wrapped up in asking God for things when we pray, and there's nothing wrong with petitions for ourselves or intercessions for others. But sometimes, we need to focus our minds and hearts on God Himself, meditating on Who He is and letting the wonder of His majesty flow over us. We also need to reflect on the great deeds God has done for His people throughout history and for us personally.
If we do this honestly and lovingly, we can't help but break out into praise and proclaim with the Psalmist, “Bless our God!” and “How tremendous are Your deeds!”