I wonder if any of us can hear those words of the gospel without at least a tiny tremble or a ripple of questioning. Which are we—the sound tree or the rotten? What’s our fruit like? Overripe, or bitter, or mealy in the mouth? How many of us can hear those words of Jesus and glow with satisfaction that we are like the season’s best peach: sweet and warm and bursting with juice? Can you imagine yourself as a perfect peach? Try it! Go on…
Because this isn’t a test of our behaviour—as if we could reform ourselves by effort and make our fruit grow to order. Jesus is just telling it how it is. Virtue, goodness, grace—any of those—can’t be grafted on—they come out of the depths of who we are or they don’t come at all. Most of the trouble we cause ourselves is comes by not letting what is inside us flow out—or pruning the life out of branches until we are bare and barren.
This is good news: a persons’ words flow out of what fills his heart. And, take heart, our hearts are good. What is important is not what we are doing for God but what God is doing in us—has done for us.
What got me thinking along these lines were some words of Peter Chrysologos—old Golden Words himself—from a homily on the incarnation. Listen and imagine yourself as a ripe peach.
“That the Creator is in the creature—and God is in the flesh—brings dignity to us all with no dishonour to the one who made us. Why then are you so worthless in your own eyes if you are so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonour when you are honoured by God? Wasn’t this whole visible universe made for your home? The light that dispels the gloom is for you. For you the heavens are embellished with sun, moon and stars. For you the earth is adorned with flowers, groves and fruit.
God has made you in God’s own image, and you in your own person make God present here on earth.”
July 30th, 2002