Today we honour the memory of St. Martin of Tours. He was imprisoned as a young man for being a conscientious objector and refusing to join the Roman army. It’s interesting that his feast falls on the anniversary of Armistice Day. Martin became a monk in 360 and some have argued that St. Martin – and not St. Benedict – is really the founder of monasticism in the Western Church. In 372 Martin became bishop of Tours and he is honoured by the Church for his pastoral zeal. He in 397 and today is the anniversary of his burial.
On this Armistice Day we remember the sacrifice of those men and women of the armed services who gave their lives that we may live in security and peace. Let us also pray for those currently serving in the troubled areas of the world, that the Lord will protect them and bring them home safely.
When we look at a tree, we may consider the magnificent height, the breath-taking canopy of the branches, and the fruit that many trees produce. But what happens underground? The roots do more than just provide food to keep the tree healthy. They also provide stability so that it can weather most storms. They help nourish the soil and prevent erosion. And they provide a home for many underground creatures. So God’s purpose for a tree extends below the ground as well as above the ground. If the roots aren’t growing properly the tree will die, and the entire environment around it will be affected.
This analogy can help us understand today’s readings. St. Paul encourages us to strive to be good examples for all those who see us “above the ground”: our self-control, our perseverance, and our integrity. But he also asks us to consider what is happening “under the ground” in terms of our openness to the grace of God that is ours in Christ. Are we getting our stability and nutrients from God?
In the gospel, Our Lord tells us that God wants us to be like the servants in the parable: bearing fruit both when it’s convenient and when it’s difficult. Like every tree that produces a minimal harvest, we are “unprofitable servants” if we are concerned only with serving just enough to get by. Those who bear generous, abundant, joyful fruit bring gladness to the people around them.
And finally, in the responsorial psalm, we are encouraged to “trust in the Lord” and “take delight in the Lord”. God is reminding us that in order to be upright in this world and to bear the kind of fruit that refreshes those with whom we share our lives, we need to sink deep roots into him, receiving all the nourishment and strength he has to give us.