A Tree and Its Fruit – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Luke 6:43-45

In our gospel lesson today, Jesus once again – as is so often his custom – draws on natural imagery to illustrate spiritual truth.  Here he contrasts “good trees,” those which naturally produce figs and grapes, with “bad trees,” those which naturally produce thorns and brambles.  A “bad tree” cannot produce good fruit; good fruit only comes from “good trees.”  Similarly, Jesus says, one whose heart is good will naturally and without effort produce good fruit, while one whose heart is evil will naturally produce evil fruit.  The point seems obvious.  The metaphor is clear.

But there are two things to note: First, there is a difference between trees and people: A “bad tree” cannot stop producing thorns and brambles and suddenly begin producing good fruit.  Because of the type of tree it is, it is incapable of bearing fruit; it can only bear thorns and brambles. But that is not the case with people.  A person with an evil heart can be transformed into one whose heart is good.  That’s a key difference.  Someone whose life is oriented towards evil rather than towards God can change!  The gospel is all about repentance, forgiveness, conversion of life, and reconciliation.  Sinners can become saints – and they do!

The second thing to be noted is this: None of us is either permanently “bad” or “good.”  As we’ve just noted, a “bad” person can choose to be “good.”  But a “good” person can also choose what is “bad.”

Now I suspect that people who show up for a Saturday morning worship service are people whose hearts are generally oriented towards God rather than towards evil.  But there are times when each of us may be tempted to embrace what is evil or to stubbornly refuse what we know to be good and right.  We can choose to indulge in some temptation even though we know it is wrong.  We can neglect the habits and disciples that have drawn us closer to God.  We can be poisoned by the evil suggestions of the enemy, or allow weeds of jealousy, resentment, anger, or hatred to spring up in our hearts.  We may even be reluctant to pull out these weeds because it is comforting to see ourselves as the victim of another’s wrong-doing.

What is needed is ongoing vigilance and constant discernment of the voices inside us that beckon us to do one thing or the other.  We need to constantly ask ourselves, “Is what this inner voice is suggesting to me now from God or from the evil one?  Will this choice turn me towards God or away from God?  Will it lead to good or to evil?”

Quieting ourselves… paying attention… listening deeply… noticing the urgings of both the good spirit and the evil spirit, which are drawing us towards God or leading us away from God: This is the ongoing work of discernment in a Christian’s life.  Every choice we make turns us either towards God or away from God.  Every choice matters. Hence the need to be vigilant.

St Paul counsels the Christians at Philippi to keep their lives oriented towards God and towards what is good.  He writes, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  (Philippians 4:8)

Today we ask the Holy Spirit to help us discern and choose the way of love and goodness, truth and righteousness, so that our lives may continually bear good fruit, fruit that lasts.  Keep us, gracious God, on the path that leads to life.

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