Audio Mix up, didn’t get a recording 😦
This past October I took a vacation to Waynesville North Carolina. What I also came to discover they harvest apples in this part of the country. My parent’s and I went to an apple store (not the electronic one) that sold apple fritters, apple donuts, apple jelly, jam, preservatives, and even apple butter. Let me tell you they were delicious, some of the best apples flavored things I’ve ever had.
It may seem apples are easy to grow, but it is a little more complicated and needs some dedication. As I understand it apple trees must be pruned, protected against insects, but not too aggressively because you too could ruin the apples. Even bees are involved in pollinating the apples. Now I won’t bore you anymore with facts about apples, but we know that if time and care are taken beautiful taste apples will be produced.
Our Lord today speaks about a good tree and a bad tree and how we need to judge the fruit that comes from the tree. He is speaking about our own spiritual lives and how we should judge our own spiritual lives. We are not trees; however a good faithful spiritual life will produce good fruit, and someone who may not pray much or partake of the sacraments often will produce bad fruit. The lord is challenging all of us to look at the fruit our spiritual lives produce and ask is it good or bad.
In our own spiritual lives, it is not as easy to pick out the bad fruit and good fruit as you may at the grocery store. Sometimes it can appear that we are producing no fruit, but we are producing great abundant fruit. Think about Saint Mother Theresa; she is well known for doing amazing works for the poor and the least fortunate in her society. Mother Theresa fought emptiness and dryness in her prayer for a long time. Does this mean she wasn’t producing fruit, or her fruit was rotten? I think the answer is no. Despite her dryness and darkness in prayer, she still kept a smile doing good works for the poor. Not only was she smiling and helping the poor, but she was also helping the poorest of the poor, and she knew that she was not only helping the homeless, the terminally ill she too was ministering to Jesus.
We shouldn’t primarily look at how Jesus is speaking to us in our prayer. That can be a sign of a fruitful spiritual life, but ultimately our prayer life should move us out of ourselves, out of our comfort zones. I know I need to challenge myself to have a daily prayer life and stay faithful to reading scripture and being in front of Jesus in the tabernacle or adoration. However, as a man studying to be a Diocesan priest if I spent my whole life in the chapel, I wouldn’t be doing anything for God’s kingdom. We need to ask ourselves, am I doing more good works of charity in my life? Do I see Jesus in the poor and vulnerable? Do I get along better with my neighbors, with my family? Am I more willing to be merciful in life? Am I growing more patient with others? We can ask many questions about our own lives about how we are living our lives. These are the fruits we should look at, feel to see if they are good or rotten.
I imagine even in these great large apple orchards there are some rotten apples and trees that simply don’t produce good trees. I would imagine they would try to investigate why those trees aren’t producing and try and remedy the situation. We can do the same in our own lives. All of us struggle with sin, and all of us have some parts of our lives that do not produce good fruit. We need to challenge ourselves to examine our lives to find the bad fruit and ask ourselves why am I letting myself produce this bad fruit.
Our Lord used a very striking image that speaks about a temptation that many of us can face in this life, and that is of spiritual pride. The enemy will try and tempt us by making us focus on how other’s fruit is not as good as it could be. If we are not careful we can become so focused on what someone else struggles with that we don’t even notice that we have a wooden beam in our own eyes. The most important fruit that we can produce in our spiritual lives is that of humility. However, I also think it can be one of the more difficult fruits to produce.
One other thing I know about harvesting fruit, in general, is that sometimes you are at the mercy of the weather, even if you do everything perfectly the weather could ruin your crop, or you may do things half-heartedly and still produce some fruit. In our own spiritual lives, we must remember that it is ultimately God who produces the fruit in us. Our Challenge is when we see good fruit in our lives to be grateful to God. As we prepare for Lent may we ask him to produce more good fruit in us by the pruning we do and the wooden beams we remove from our own lives?