Saturday in Fourteenth Week after Pentecost
The stark duality of this gospel passage gives me a twinge of panic when I consider what sort of tree I might be. I know that there have been times when something sweet and good was produced. But I’m also painfully aware of some thorns and bitter fruit that have been unpleasant and harmful for myself and others around me. And, sometimes, when I look around at the other plants in the garden, the people whose lives seem to produce nothing but bushel after bushel of the finest fruit around, I think of my own poor crop as rather paltry.
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” It is easy to hear this question harshly. It is easy for me to imagine Jesus asking this, vexed, frustrated, indignant, angry, at his wit’s end. And that’s a challenge. If Jesus really came into the world to save sinners,1 to show the utmost patience and mercy,2 to be our most steadfast friend and companion3…where are those qualities in this question?
Perhaps it might be helpful to engage in some self-reflection. How do I feel when I’ve experienced conflict with friends? When I’ve hurt a loved one, I may get defensive. I may conjure up offenses, real or imagined, that that friend has committed against me. I may feel the need to deflect responsibility, or engage in a perverse game of score-keeping; somehow, in these moments when I finish tallying the friendship score, I always seem to come out ahead. These feelings and behaviors, though, do not get at the heart of the issue. What really worries me when I’ve hurt a loved one is that I’ve created an irreparable breach, an eternally broken communion. It is a profoundly uncomfortable experience; I feel lonely, claustrophobic, anxious, and weary.