8th Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: February 27, 2022
“Wow! That’s an amazing piece of fruit!”
I remember making this exclamation a few years ago on a trip to Japan.
I am very blessed in my career at having the opportunity to travel around the world and see many cultures and things unique that I would never see here in Hamilton.
On one of these business trips, I was out shopping for gifts to bring home for my daughters, and we wandered by a food store and saw these unbelievably perfect fruit – melons, peaches, cherries, etc.
The peaches were as big as softballs and the prices were just as unbelievable – one peach was $40!
The fruit is the best of the best – perfect smell; the best look with great colour, great texture, the shape is perfectly round. When you taste it has the great taste – the right combination of sweet and tart, the texture is great – no soft or crunchy spots.
In talking to our local Japanese interpreter, he told us that in Japan they have a tradition of giving fruit as a gift for special occasions – not just any fruit – but this special fruit that was grown to be perfect.
The time and care created a perfect peach or melon that could then be sold as one of the special gift fruit.
So, you may ask, Deacon Tom what does this have to do with the readings today?
Well, Jesus tells us in the gospel that “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.” – so the question posed today is “If God were to look at our spiritual life – what kind of fruit would he see?”
Would it be a shrivelled-up peach fallen from the tree on the ground or would it be one of the $40 special peaches or maybe something in between.
How can we tell which one we are? And more importantly, if we are not at the best level – how do we get there?
Well, let’s look at how great fruit are grown, you need the best conditions to be put in place:
The four key ingredients for growing are nutrients(fertilizer), water, soil and light.
Where do we see those components in the readings today?
In the first reading, we hear from the Book of Sirach, which has proverbs of wisdom, shows us the importance of fertilizer and nutrients.
It says that a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of their mind, and what a person says, and how often they speak, show how they have been nourished.
We are told that our speech shows if we have a spiritual life of husks or kernels, and if our clay pot is strained and cracks as we reveal it.
In other words, if we have nourished our mind with reading the Bible or listening to spiritual insights on the radio or TV, or studying wisdom in literature, in the lives of the saints, etc., is nutrients to our soul.
Nutrients are the food, and if the food is poor in quality, if we are watching or listening to media that is poor in taste or value, then our mind will be filled with this, and our speech will show the quality of our fruit by what we say and talk about.
Secondly, In the psalm we have sung today, we see the importance of water and being “tapped” into God.
We hear “the righteous flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon – they are planted in the house of the Lord and flourish…in old age they still produce fruit, they are always green and full of sap”.
What a beautiful image that is used by the psalm writer. The palm tree and the cedar both have deep roots that tap into water no matter what the conditions.
This water provides the sap to allow the tree to be green and produce fruit no matter how old it is.
This challenges us to put our roots deep into our faith life. To tap our roots into prayer and heart to heart conversations with God as a personal relationship that we can count on in times of stress and distress.
Our fruit is shown by an aura of peace in the midst of the storms of life as we know in our heart that our water comes from God’s love and is not dependent on day-to-day circumstances.
Thirdly, In the second reading Paul tells the Corinthians and tells us also about the soil.
He says, “my beloved” (a beautiful thought for fellow Christians), be steadfast, immovable, and always excelling in the work of the Lord.
Soil that is great for growing has this same image of sturdiness, it is not washed away by the wind or rain but stays and holds the plants secure.
We are to be steadfast amongst the trials and tribulations due to our faith in God and knowing his deep and immovable love for us!
Knowing how much personal love He has for us, we excel in the works of the Lord which are love for the poor, the orphans, widows and pushing for justice in the world.
We will hear in the announcements today about the St. Vincent de Paul Society who mirrors what St. Paul is talking about here.
And finally, we have light and sun and heat to produce great fruit.
In the gospel today, with Jesus telling us mini parables to help shine light on us.
He tells us to find the best of spiritual teachers to help us grown in our faith life. This may not be professors, but maybe parents, grandparents, friends or even co-workers who we already see by their actions live the life that bears the great fruits of joy, love, peace, gentleness and kindness.
He tells us to get out of the shade of criticism and gossip towards others and instead to pull the log out our own eye and to focus on improving ourselves.
Pope Francis says that we are to be humble and recognize our own faults and failings before we eve think of correcting another person. We approach others with humility and respect and not out of any form of superiority.
We are told that “the good person…produces good” because of the treasure of a heart filled with God’s love.
So this week as we prepare for Lent and we are trying to decide on what to work on for 40 days, let us remember the perfect Japanese peach. Look at your spiritual life, look at the fruit it is producing and think about what you want to work on. Is it the getting more fertilizer from reading, more water from prayer, better soil from helping others or more sun by seeing wisdom from better teachers of the faith.
We should be encourage during Lent, in knowing that we are connected to the grower –and He will prune, water, fertilize, shade, shine – whatever we need to bring us closer to Him and closer to what He wants for us in our lives – all we have to do is ask!!
At the end of our life – wouldn’t it be great to hear the words from God – “Wow! That’s an amazing piece of fruit!”