This week’s Gospel reading is all about examining what kind of fruit we are bearing in our lives right now.
Consider your marriage, your family, your friendships. Think also of your workplace, your parish, your community. Most of all, ponder your moral and spiritual life—your relationship with God. What good fruit are you bearing in these areas of your life? Is there any bad fruit that needs to be removed?
Jesus tells us that the true test of a disciple is fruit bearing. Just as every tree is known by its fruit, so every disciple is known by the fruit he or she produces. And that fruit begins to grow in our hearts.
As we invite the Lord into our hearts, he begins the work of transformation within us. He tills the soil, and plants good seeds of faith. Those seeds grow in us as we deepen our relationship with him and grow to bear great fruit in us. And as we will see in today’s reflection, the “fertilizer” for that fruit is all the day-to-day circumstances of our lives: our trials, our difficulties, our opportunities to practice patience, generosity, humility, and forgiveness. These seemingly small, insignificant circumstances we encounter every day are what God wants to use to help us grow and bear good fruit.
Unpack the First Reading
This brief reading from Sirach illustrates with three images how a man’s heart is known by his speech: The sieve catches useless husks of grain, so does a man’s speech catch his faults. A furnace refines or tests the quality of a potter’s clay, as does conversation test a man. And as the quality of the fruit from a tree shows the care the tree received, so do the words of a man show the care he has given his heart.
If one’s heart is full of love, peace, and joy, the words spoken by that person will communicate those “fruits of the Spirit.” But, if a heart contains anger, bitterness, or hatred, the words of that person will express these negative qualities. The content of our conversation is the judge of our hearts.
Unpack the Second Reading
In this passage, St. Paul says that God has brought the greatest good out of the worst effects of original sin. That is, bodily death is the seed of immortality for those who have allied themselves with God’s saving plan. So we shouldn’t be surprised St. Paul appeals to Old Testament passages that remind Israel of the destruction that sin deserves. In Christ, the destruction that justice demanded for sin has become the very instrument of mercy and life eternal.
Unpack the Gospel
There’s an old Latin dictum, operatio sequitur esse, which means that things act according to their nature. Jesus explains just that in this Gospel passage. The blind are those who need to be guided, a student is one who needs a teacher, and good trees bear good fruit. A disciple of Christ has a definite nature too, and our actions are the test of that discipleship.
The nature of discipleship is something that we can come to ignore by familiarity. As disciples, we can become so accustomed to the Gospel message that we forget that the defining trait of the Christian is the willingness to be taught and led by Christ. When we refuse to be taught, we’re blinding ourselves to the very nature of our calling as disciples. That’s what Jesus means by “hypocrite”; he applies it to those who are blind to their own faults and need to be guided. A disciple is one who follows and is taught by Christ, one who will bear good fruit and be fit to teach others.
Discuss with Family & Friends
How is God calling you to be his disciple and to bear fruit for the kingdom? Please take a few minutes to watch the 6-minute Opening the Word video reflection on the readings.
In this week’s session, the presenter, Jim Beckman, mentions that fruit often comes through the hardships and struggles we encounter in our lives. As we begin our reflection today, think about times in your life when you were facing great difficulties, trials, or hardships.
When you look back now, do you see ways in which you’ve grown through difficult times?
What positive “fruit” came out of those challenging moments in your life?
Look at the verse from the second reading that Jim mentioned in the video, “Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.”
What is the “work” you think the Lord desires to do in your heart?
As we reflect on the readings today, what might be one particular “fruit” that the Lord desires to grow in your own life today?
Remember how the video ended by saying that it is only when we embrace our struggles that God can begin to grow fruit in our lives. With that in mind, what are some circumstances going on in your life right now that God might be using?
If you have been through a similar struggle in the past, can you share with the group how you grew through the trial?
Digging Deeper: Bearing the Fruits of the Holy Spirit
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ (Jesus) have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit.” —Galatians 5:19-25
Reflections reprinted here with permission from Augustine Institute.