This Sunday’s Gospel, Luke 13:1-9 from the 3rd Sunday of Lent, is the parable of the vineyard owner who wishes to cut down a tree on his property that is not being fruitful.
Jesus in other passages too, likens those in the Kingdom of God to trees that are to bear fruit for his kingdom, (e.g. Mt 13:4-23). Are you bearing fruit for the Kingdom? The spiritual life is one of growth. At first, the nourishment we receive goes to make our foundation, our tree, grow and be strong. But at some point in our faith journey, we must produce fruit. But what does it mean “To bear fruit”? To most in the world, bearing fruit means to have children. Although that is indeed bearing fruit, there is much more to bearing fruit, and all are called to bear fruit, even if we do not have children.
I recall years ago hearing this Gospel passage in Church one Sunday. At the time I was single, working full time and making a good salary. But I could sense that I wanted more from life, and the challenge I heard in the Mass that day, caused me to ask “Am I bearing fruit?” I recall visiting my Aunt later that day, and I told her I had gone to Church. She asked what the homily was about. I answered, it was about bearing fruit, and then I proclaimed to her, and the others also in that dining room with her, “I want to bear fruit”. She laughed and I am sure thought I was talking about getting married. Although I did not know it at the time, that desire, to bear fruit, was the beginning of my journey to become a Franciscan Priest. Just a few years ago, while on a month long retreat, I was deeply struck by the Gospel passage Jn 15:16 “You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name.” As I read that passage, the Lord revealed to me that he had heard my desire, my prayer, spoken to my Aunt years ago; “I want to bear fruit”.
Are you bearing fruit in the Kingdom of God? What does that really mean? What fruit are you called to produce? I think the answer is already inside you. Is there a desire in you to produce fruit, yet you may not know what that means? The following is an exercise that will help you determine what is the fruit you are called to produce. Write your autobiography. Then go back and highlight all the parts of that autobiography that give you joy. This will help show you the type of fruit that you are called to produce more of. When I did this, I had listed many accomplishments, from college degrees, awards won, projects completed on my job, etc. But when I went back with a highlighter and marked the parts of my life that gave me joy and life, it was being a big brother to a young boy (now married man), it was helping the poor, and teaching the boy scouts. None of the things I would have thought. This gave me the courage and insight to reorient my life, to produce more works like these. Fruit gives life. It gives life to others who receive it, and it gives life to us when we give it away.
Image the day of your funeral. What will be said about you? Will there be proclaimed a list of titles you achieved in your short life, or will there be a testimony of how your life gave life to others, how your life gave fruit? At his death, St. Francis reminded the friars who had gathered around him, “Brothers, let us do Good while we still have time”. To produce fruit, is to achieve our purpose. We do not know how much time we have remaining in our life. Let us produce fruit, while we still have time. Learn more about the Franciscans at Franciscans.org.