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"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20


Good fruit and the foundation

Laura DeMaria

"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:43-49

I meditated with this, this morning. First, there is the matter of fruit. What does the fruit mean to you?

If Jesus says "a good man brings good things our of the good stored up in his heart," I think the easiest interpretation is good works, meaning a good person is good to those around him. He is charitable, generous, patient and full of virtue. That is good fruit that comes from staying close to Jesus. But also, I think the fruit means more than that, because it means being in possession of a certain attitude: one of love and gratitude for what He has given me, and a sense of wonder for His creation. It is also having faith in what comes next for me. So the fruits of a "good man" who stays close to Christ are not just that he acts a certain charitable way, but is thinking and believing in a new, gratitude-filled way.

Next, the foundation: what Jesus warns is that if someone hears his voice and does not follow, by necessity they will not be able to withstand hardship. It makes sense, doesn't it? When you are rooted in Christ and his teachings, and have been given a particular understanding of the world, you are more likely to feel sure and firm when life gets difficult. Otherwise, without that foundation, you are lost; the water rises and you are swept away.

I must remember this in times of doubt. I don't know if others experience this (they must) but given how devoted I am to my spiritual life can sometimes make me feel deeply at odds with the regular (ah, "secular") world. I put secular in quotations because I do not like it; it is silly to think any part of the world is truly secular, or out of God's reach, as if those spheres of activity are an exception and operating on their own out of God's plan. Even those who are atheist, of course, or even just ambivalent, are living according to God's plan. If they got to know Him, though, and listened to His voice in their lives, I think they'd get more out of life, though.

I have realized that the act of contemplative prayer in my life this year has totally changed how I view myself, my relationship with God and my relationship with the world, because I have begun to see my role in my own life as co-creator with God. Meaning, when I truly engage with Him in prayerful dialogue, and bring everything forward, the blueprint of my life becomes more clear. I'm not just waiting for what He throws at me, but expressing my own desire and seeing it come to life. What I mean is, when we don't sit still and talk to God, and listen, we miss things. This is what I have experienced, anyway. It is as if there is a room full of unopened presents, which are the gifts God wants to give us - I don't mean just physical, but of love and other virtues and small blessings - but they go unclaimed because God cannot get through to us, to give them to us.

When I began my journey with contemplative prayer way back during Lent this year, the pray most often on my mind was, "Use me for your will, God," because it seemed like the right place to begin. It is sort of a scary thing to ask because you may be opening yourself up to becoming a missionary in a remote place, or poor, or to enter religious life. These things happen, you know. But if God was truly using you for His will, wouldn't that be the happiest thing you could imagine? To be living in a way in which your will was aligned with His? There is no way that would bring grief.

So, that is the starting point. Use me for your will, Lord. Keep my ways as yours. Keep me on the path. Let my foundation in you be strong, let me hear your voice and live your plan for me. Let me treat others in a way that reflects your love for all your creation, and the love you have given me, who does not deserve it.