The Gospel St. Matthew VII.15
At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves; ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit: neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shal enter into the Kingdom of Heaven: but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.
When Catherine and I lived in Michigan, our property there had five black walnut trees lining the yard; huge things that had been around for at least as long as the house itself, which at that time was about 125 years. Every other year, these trees would rain down thousands of walnuts into the yard. And before anyone thinks this is a good thing, let me tell you that it’s no fun hitting a walnut with your lawn mower.
But on the odd year, these trees would produce very few walnuts; maybe only one or two hundred. And if we had a year with very little rain, much like this one, we might only have had a few dozen. Additionally, many times, we would open some of the walnuts, only to find that there weren’t any nuts inside the shell. The walnuts gave the appearance of being productive, but they were just empty shells; “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”.
From time to time, we would have people offer us money for these trees; I guess black walnut is good wood for furniture makers. We were offered anywhere from $1,500 to $2000 for each tree. But we always rejected the offers.
So what do you all think? Here we had some trees that didn’t produce consistently; they made a mess in the yard; and they could have brought us some money. Shouldn’t we have sold them? Shouldn’t we have had them hewn down and cast into the fire (or at least the sawmill)?
Well, let me tell you why Catherine and I didn’t want to sell our trees; we resisted because we saw the value that they provided. There were the productive years where we would have all the walnuts anyone could ever want. Also, there was the shade they provided over our house; this alone saved us a lot of money in electricity during the Summer months. They provided a home for the squirrels who “entertained” our dogs on a daily basis. Finally, there’s the fact that they were just plain beautiful; and we realized that even though they occasionally failed to produce, they were still capable of providing value. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. We knew these trees by all their fruits.
So what do trees have to do with us? Well, the example of those walnut trees can be applied to us in such a way so as to ask this question of ourselves; “do we consistently provide value; do we constantly bring forth good fruit? Or are we just empty shells”? “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”.
Our thoughts, our actions, our deeds all begin in one spot. For a tree, that spot is in its roots. For us, it’s our heart. The tree has at its root a particular purpose; that is to grow and provide shelter, protection, possibly even food. We have in our heart a particular purpose to do…what? What is our purpose? What is that purpose in our hearts? Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Our motives count every bit as much as our actions. They have to; because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have much of a chance. We are human. We are going to fail. We will have those years when things get difficult, there’s not enough rain, and we don’t produce like we should. It is during those times that our motivation is ever more important. It is during those times that the purpose in our heart, our roots, must be clearly focused. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”.
So what is our purpose? Why do we come to church? Do we come because it’s what we always do on Sunday mornings? Do we come because there’s nothing better to do? Do we come because we want to visit with our friends? Or do we come because this is where we worship God and give thanks for the gift of Salvation granted to us by the Sacrifice of His Son? Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Why do we give money to the church? Do we give because we just feel obligated? Do we give because others in our church family give? Do we give just to get the priest to shut up about giving? (I can tell you…that ain’t gonna happen!) Or do we give because we see it as our obligation to God; as part of our responsibility to support and grow His Church? Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Our fruits will spring from our heart. And if our heart is not right, the fruits we produce will be corrupt. “…neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit”. If our motivation is not clearly focused then our time, our money, our efforts, all mean what? “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”.
So, we’re now at the point where some of you are probably waiting for me to tell you what your heart should be focused on. You don’t really need me to tell you that the purpose in your heart should be to love God. You don’t really need me to tell you that our motivation should be driven by our gratitude for the Sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. You don’t really need me to tell you that our hearts desire should be the spread of the Gospel and the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
A priest can do many things by talking to you here; We can tell you what the Church teaches about certain things; We can tell you something that might make you think a little bit; We might even be able to “guilt” some people into changing their behavior for a short time. We can’t bring rain. We can’t make people change their hearts. We can’t make people produce good fruit. Only you can do that.
Fortunately, God has provided us with “rain”. He has provided us with nourishment. By the Grace of God, through His Holy Spirit, we receive the Blessed Sacrament, the Body and Blood of Christ. This is all that we need to feed us, to strengthen us, to nourish our roots, our hearts. The Blessed Sacrament is what changes our hearts and directs us in the way of that true purpose and provides us our real focus.
God thinks we are valuable. He sees that all too often, we will fail to produce our best. But even as we fail, we are in fact capable of producing good fruit; because remember what Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”. If our motivation is true, if our hearts are clearly focused, if our roots are strong, we will produce good fruit. We will become quite naturally a people who “doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”. And by our fruits, we shall be known.