There is a scripture in Hosea where it talks about breaking up fallow ground.
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground;
for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Hosea 10:12
We might read that verse and either 1) not understand what fallow ground is, or 2) not apply it to ourselves.
So what is fallow ground? Fallow ground is an area of land that was previously planted and harvested but is then left unsown. That can be a good and needed thing, giving the land a chance to rest and be rejuvenated. But in this verse, it implies that something has become hardened and needs to be broken up in order for it to be fruitful again.
The responsorial psalm recently at Mass was taken from Psalm 95, “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” In all of us, there are hard parts of our hearts — ways that we resist the Lord and His invitations to us. Being a disciple and following Jesus requires the breaking up of the hardness in our hearts — on a regular basis. The Lord achieves this, if we give Him permission, in a wide variety of ways.
One of the ways those hard parts get broken up is by little calls to service or demands on our time that we feel an initial resistance to. When we are asked to do something outside of our comfort zone but that we know we need to do or should do, that could be an example of the Lord giving us an opportunity to break up the hardness of our hearts, the parts of us that like to remain comfortable and unchallenged.
To give you an example, I don’t really like to make business phone calls. I never have and it’s a task that I put off, if I can, on my list of to-do items. However in this season of my life, with my elderly mom living with me, I have to make more phone calls — doctor appointments, follow-ups, pharmacy info, banking, etc. I almost always feel inner resistance when I know I need to make some calls.
But lately I’ve been picturing those necessary calls as a type of weeding tool that we use in the garden. It’s hand-held and can be used to loosen up a small section of ground to be able to pull the weeds out easier. It only works if that ground is not too hard and if you catch the weeds early enough. The phone calls are really no big deal and don’t cost me too much of an effort, but I’ve come to appreciate them as a way to break up some hard parts in my heart that creep in without me even being aware. If I cooperate and make the call cheerfully, I notice that other challenging tasks in my life somehow go easier. It has a spill-over effect.
That broken up fallow ground can produce an abundant harvest in our lives, and what we harvest are the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23). If you find yourself lacking in any of those fruits (and who of us isn’t lacking in at least a few!), try to envision those bothersome tasks that you need to do as the Lord’s tool to break up some of the hardness of your heart. As we plaster on a smile and respond well, we will reap that “steadfast love” that Hosea speaks about and our lives will be beautifully fruitful.