12 February 2019
God said, ‘Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.’ And so it was. God created great sea-serpents and every kind of living creature with which the waters teem, and every kind of winged creature. God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the waters of the seas; and let the birds multiply upon the earth.’ Evening came and morning came: the fifth day.
God said, ‘Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.’ And so it was. God made every kind of wild beast, every kind of cattle, and every kind of land reptile. God saw that it was good.
God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’
God created man in the image of himself,
in the image of God he created him,
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food. To all wild beasts, all birds of heaven and all living reptiles on the earth I give all the foliage of plants for food.’ And so it was. God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. Evening came and morning came: the sixth day.
Thus heaven and earth were completed with all their array. On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing. He rested on the seventh day after all the work he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on that day he had rested after all his work of creating.
Such were the origins of heaven and earth when they were created.
The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:
This people honours me only with lip-service,
while their hearts are far from me.
The worship they offer me is worthless,
the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.
You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’ And he said to them, ‘How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition! For Moses said: Do your duty to your father and your mother, and, Anyone who curses father or mother must be put to death. But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother: Anything I have that I might have used to help you is Corban (that is, dedicated to God), then he is forbidden from that moment to do anything for his father or mother.” In this way you make God’s word null and void for the sake of your tradition which you have handed down. And you do many other things like this.’
Be fruitful and multiply.
When I was younger in my faith journey, I thought that when God said ‘Be fruitful and multiply’, it meant procreation. In my youth, I had it all planned – I would be married and have children. That’s how I would be fruitful. I looked up the definitions of the words. ‘Be fruitful’ means to be producing good results or being productive, the word ‘multiply’ means to increase or cause to increase greatly in number or quantity. Fast forward to today – I am not married, nor do I have children. Does that mean that this line in today’s first reading has little to do with me? Or am I not being fruitful because I have not produced any offspring?
Jesus was 33 years old, did not have any wife nor kids; does that deem him also unfruitful and unproductive? As I pondered on this deeper, I know that we are all called to be fruitful. Whether married or single. We don’t have to ‘produce fruit’ in order to be fruitful. We could have a fruitful trip to the store if we bought all we wanted at good discounts. Or if we made a trip to the market and came home with the freshest produce. For me it would be finding good quality chorizo at the weekend market.
As Christians, we are called to be fruitful with our vocations, our time and gifts that God has given to us. Fruitful in our behaviour, attitude, words, and thoughts. To be fruitful means to follow Christ. To love what He loves. To do what He commands from a loving motive and with a joyful spirit. This obedience is both predestined by and empowered by God Himself which removes any grounds for boasting in how fruitful our lives or ministries become. It is by God’s grace and our abiding in Christ that we produce good fruit.
So what are some ways we can be fruitful and multiply?
In the workplace, we have to be responsible, diligent and do our part in the organization. Getting away with the bare minimum, getting our colleagues to do the heavy lifting, gossiping, back stabbing and being a ‘tai chi master’ is not fruitful.
As caregivers or parents, when we care for, love and look after the needs of our children, parents or aged relatives.
As children, when we are responsible for our actions, when we do the very best at our studies, when we volunteer to help a friend who is struggling with a subject, when we take out the trash after dinner or clean out our room.
As a single, when we can give of our time to help a charitable organisation, look out for the elderly in our neighbourhood, be a listening ear to someone struggling with depression, cook for someone who doesn’t have regular meals, or when we use our talents and resources to benefit others.
So as long as we are living lives that pleasing to God, when our lives are a reflection of Jesus in our hearts and we bring Him glory (whether we have children or not) – we are fruitful and multiplying. Indeed, we can be spiritually fruitful and multiply the citizens of the Kingdom of God when we obey Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
So go forth my brothers and sisters, with Jesus in living in us, let us be fruitful and multiply.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Come Lord Jesus, and help us to live fully and faithfully to our covenant. May our lives be spiritually fruitful and pleasing to You. May our hearts burst with love and a great desire to bring joy to others because you, Jesus, first loved us.
Thanksgiving: God, thank you making us in your image and your likeness. Thank you for looking at us and saying ‘indeed it was very good.’ Now may we live our lives worthy of you.