Saturday of the Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time – Lk 6:43-49
Today’s Gospel seems to have two distinct parts: the first concerns the fruit produced by trees and people, and the second concerns the foundations that houses and people build upon. However, as the saints of the Church point out, really both sections indicate the same reality, which is this: appearances matter little, whereas the foundations, the depths, are what are really responsible for the final results and products.
Regarding the first part, Saint John Chrysostom notes that the specific nature of a tree is revealed most clearly in its fruit. This is because, as Saint Cyril argues, although a person might have “extrinsic ornaments and pretended humility,” as though they were nice looking leaves and pretty flowers, nonetheless the fruit really tells us what that plant is made of. To this, Saint Bede adds an interesting point: “the treasure of the heart is the same as the root of the tree. He … who has in his heart the treasure of patience and perfect love, brings forth the best fruits, loving his enemy, and doing the other things which have been taught above. But he who keeps a bad treasure in his heart does the contrary to this.” In other words, Bede draws this image for us of a plant pulling from its roots in order to produce good fruit. There’s something very profound about that vision: a person can produce good fruit, but only if they have their roots sunk firmly in Jesus Christ and His grace. A person with shallow roots, meaning, a heart that has a treasure that isn’t Christ, can’t produce good fruits.
This leads naturally into the second part, and a number of fathers remind us that “the rock is Christ,” and we need to established in Him: Saint Bede continues his discourse saying “The rock is Christ. He digs deep; by the precepts of humility He plucks out all earthly things from the hearts of the faithful, lest they should serve God from regard to their temporal good.” The great Saint Basil says the same thing in the form of an injunction: “lay your foundations upon, a rock, that is, lean upon the faith of Christ, so as to persevere immovable in adversity, whether it come from man or God.”
Again, presumably the two houses would’ve looked the same. However, when the storms came, it became clear whose house was founded upon the rock, and who had built upon sand.
This is all well and good, we could say, but what can we do about it? The first thing to consider is how we respond in moments of difficulty, stress, and challenges. Do we get angry, yell, swear, or produce generally bad fruit? If so, it’s a sign that perhaps we are not rooted firmly enough in Christ. It’s true that as humans, we are weak and prone to fall, but grace builds on nature and heals it. Second, we really need to examine ourselves: this Gospel is meant, at least partially, as a rebuke to hypocrites. Saint Bede rephrases Christ’s words this way: “If you would have a true and unfeigned righteousness, what you set forth in words make up also in works, for the hypocrite, though he pretends to be good, is not good, [for] he does evil works; and the innocent, though he be blamed, is not therefore evil, [for] he does good works.” Are we consistent in our lives: do our prayers match our words, our words our actions, our actions our lives and status as Christians?
Today, let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Anchor of Confidence and Rock of Constancy, for the grace to build upon the Rock that is Christ, and so produce good fruit worthy of our Lord.