Today's Gospel: Matthew 7:15-20 - St. Irenaeus
This Gospel reading about plants and fruits reminds me of a visit to a farm in Guatemala. Because of climate warming, the coffee crop on which farmers depended for their livelihoods was devastated by heat, pests and disease. A Catholic Relief Service program provided funds and expertise for replanting. We saw farmers and their families meticulously splicing two plants together, one that provides strong roots and the other, tasty coffee. The process was highly labor-intensive as it requires hand-cutting, firm connection and gentle binding. All this work is for the fruit: a coffee plant that can produce desirable beans for twenty years!
Jesus' examples of grapes and figs find expression in the popular saying, "the apple does not fall far from the tree", often a compliment to parents when their children demonstrate admirable behavior. The lesson highlights long-term formation and intimates the interplay between the interior and exterior, authenticity and appearances, care for the common good and personal agendas. These contrasts harken back to Jesus' admonition to "enter through the narrow gate" in the two verses preceding today's reading. Grapes, figs, apples, coffee are allegories of the fruitfulness of our own lives, and specifically our fruitfulness according to the measure that God sets for us on our journey with and to Him: the love for God and neighbors.
We live in a society where appearances dominate and convenience is integral to our way of life. We are busy doing and there is seldom time or the space for reflection and the deepening of faith. Our actions sometime lead to good and other times to divisiveness, exclusion and condemnation. This passage is God calling us to tend to our hearts. We must first grow our desire to know Him and to see Him in those He sends us. Until then, our fruitfulness will fall short of what God makes us for: love.
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Where do I need the gentle hand of the vinegrower to prune and tend my heart, so that I can grow good fruit?
Lord, help me to grow in love for You so that I can bear the fruit of that love towards others.
Copyright 2017 Carolyn Woo
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo is President & CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Please visit Catholic Relief Services today to find out how you can make a difference in our world.