Readings (Year C):
Reflection: Stay rooted in relationship with God
Have you ever picked a piece of fruit right off of a tree and bit into it, and enjoyed it right there? There’s something that seems almost magical or even miraculous about it. This tree that was once just a seed slowly becoming a sprout, growing and growing, until wondrously, fruit appears on its branches. And then on one special day, you reach up, give a slight tug, and the tree releases a luscious piece of fruit. Perhaps it’s a golden-red honeycrisp apple, or a vibrant juicy orange. Whatever fruit it might be, in that moment you are struck by the pure giftedness of it all. Nature has provided you with a wonderful food that not only nourishes you, but also delights you. It’s nature’s normal course, but it also feels special, like a gift.
The renowned theologian and teacher Thomas O’Meara, when explaining some of the aspects of Thomas Aquinas’ thought, often quotes lyrics from the musical “Showboat.” “Fish gotta swim, bird’s gotta fly,” to which we might add, “a tree’s gotta bloom.” O’Meara has a wonderful way of making seemingly complex things simple. Perhaps, we as human beings too often do the opposite. We make simple things complex. We like to make distinctions between ourselves, others, and the rest of the natural world, but, as our readings today point out quite clearly, “we,” like the trees, are known by our fruit.
The first reading from Sirach astutely observes “the fruit of a tree shows the care it has had” and so do we as human beings. In our words and actions we show not only the care others have generously given us but also the care we have put into cultivating ourselves. Through the process of growing, pruning, and flourishing, we gradually learn not only what to say in all manner of situations, but importantly when and how to say what we believe needs to be said, for justice, for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for charity and for encouragement.
Sometimes we put limits or expectations on what kind of “fruit” we think we should bear. We tell ourselves all kinds of things about who we should be or what we should do. But trees bear all different kinds of fruit, big and small, and nurture growth and new life in many different ways. For us that may mean sometimes we may be called to do something that seems big or daunting, amend our life in some significant way, or stand up for the good of others when it’s not easy. Other times, it may be something small, almost overlooked, a simple affirmation offered to another or a small unseen act to help the daily life of your family, coworkers, neighbors, or parish community. These are all ways we bear fruit, and each is meaningful in its own way. The scriptures remind us that through it all, one of the most important things is to stay rooted in our relationship with God. Interestingly, if we cultivate these good habits in ourselves, and remain attentive to our relationship with God, we might be surprised at the fruit we bear simply by being ourselves.