Bearing Good Fruit
“So by their fruits you will know them.”
Jesus is counseling the disciples to avoid being naive. He wants followers who are simple, that is, childlike in their simplicity—uncomplicated, unsophisticated, but wise, aware, and astute. We should know our faith well enough to realize when we are being fed an untruth and familiar enough with Christ’s life to recognize a charlatan. Some people use religion for various types of gain: money, pleasure, honor. Occasionally someone will use religion as a front for evil purposes: to steal, to harass, to exploit. Jesus uses the example of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, possibly a popular metaphor of his day, to help us picture the danger. I immediately think of the stuffed animal—a wolf with a removable sheepskin—that sat for many years in my parents’ living room. Their grandchildren loved to play with it. Real-life versions aren’t as easily identified. Whom exactly is Jesus cautioning against? Perhaps certain people are infiltrating his group of followers with bad intentions. Perhaps he is pointing out the deceptions all too common in every society.
Jesus continues his advice by turning our attention from the malicious to the misleading. How often have we opened a beautiful piece of fruit to find it rotten inside? A good tree would not have borne this fruit. However, the tree must have looked healthy, or the harvesters would have passed it by. Jesus is telling us to avoid being hypocritical. To mean what we say, yes or no. To not appear pious while entertaining evil thoughts. To not pass ourselves off as tough, crass, or arrogant while thinking of ourselves as holy souls. To be who we say we are: let baptism show. It is not just a metaphor that dead wood will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “By their fruits you will know them.” Jesus repeats this twice, to open and close this teaching, in order to impress its importance on us. Jesus wants us to be genuine and sincere.
Dear Lord, help us to be aware that we always have the choice of producing good fruit or of wasting our great gifts. Let our fruit be sweet and nourishing for all whom we encounter. Let our demeanor always give us away as your followers. Let there never be any question about who we are. May our baptism color every aspect of our life so that seeing us, others may see you, the true Light of the World.
“You can tell a tree by its fruit.”
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 1–17: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 208–210). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.