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Producing Good Fruits
Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”
Opening Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, bless me with understanding of your word. Give me the desire to build up goodness in my heart and then share that goodness with others. Help me make your love manifest in this world and so build up your Kingdom.
- Good Fruits Are Good Works: A tree bearing good fruit has likely been cared for, has a strong trunk and branches, and is free from pests. It gets plenty of water, nutrients, and sun. A tree bearing rotten fruit likely suffers from neglect of some kind. It may be surrounded by weeds or pests, or perhaps it does not get enough water, nutrients, or sun. The tree is an apt image of our spiritual health. Weeds and pests represent anxiety, temptation, and sin. Water, nutrients, and sun feeding the good tree are the sacraments, worship, and prayer. When our soul is healthy and well nourished, we produce good fruits. As St. James taught, true faith is active and “completed by works” (James 2:22). By our faith, may we produce good works that give glory to God.
- Goodness in the Heart = Virtue: A “store of goodness in [the] heart” is another way to speak about virtue. According to the Catechism, “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do the good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends toward the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions” (CCC 1803). There are four cardinal human virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. We can practice these virtues in our everyday lives to give glory to God. The three theological virtues are faith, hope, and love. God gives us these virtues as a gift through grace; we can pray for and activate these in our lives. As imitators of Christ, we are called to practice the cardinal virtues, and pray for the grace of the three theological virtues for ourselves and those we love.
- Building on a Solid Foundation: Living virtuously is akin to building our lives on a solid foundation. When we “dig deeply” and lay this strong foundation by infusing our thoughts and actions with virtue, we fortify ourselves against temptation so that we cannot be shaken. By our cooperation with grace, we will have prepared ourselves to “enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13). May our mouths speak only words pleasing to the Lord, so that by our lives we give glory to him and merit eternal life.
Conversing with Christ: My Jesus, I believe that, by living according to your word, my life can be pleasing to you. I am sorry for the times when my faith has failed to produce good fruits, thus becoming stagnant. Help me to build up a store of virtue in my heart so I can bless others with the fruits of your Kingdom. I believe that I am saved by your grace (Ephesians 2:8), but I know to enter your Kingdom I must activate my faith by cooperating with your grace, your life in me. I will strive to keep your commands and bear good fruit. Strengthen me so my faith is active and alive, not dead due to inaction (James 2:17). Help me to always offer my good works in and through your power and for your glory, not my own.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will engage in a work of mercy out of love for my neighbor.
For Further Reflection: Read this apologetic article on Catholic Answers that addresses the connection between faith and works: “Galatians 2:16 and Sola Fide.”
Carey Boyzuck, MTS, is a wife, mother, freelance writer, pastoral assistant, and lay member of Regnum Christi. She blogs at www.word-life-light.com.