Joyful Fruit
Joyful Fruit

Joyful Fruit

Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time. Fr Robert Verrill preaches on the divine patience.

There are many characteristics of ourselves as human beings that distinguish us from all other living creatures on our planet, but one very noticeable characteristic is the vast number of ways in which we can be fruitful. With all other living creatures, the first thing that usually comes to mind when we think of their fruitfulness is their production of seed by which they perpetuate their species. Yet if one were to ask a person whether they had had a fruitful day, this kind of fruitfulness is not usually what is being asked about. Literally speaking, when people procreate, they are being fruitful, and they are being fruitful in a very important way, but usually when we think of human fruitfulness, we tend to think of activities such as writing essays, making works of art, making money… and the list goes on. Depending on who we are, we will find some ways of being fruitful more attractive than others, but whoever we are, we will want to be fruitful in some way or other.

Given the etymology of the word fruit, this is hardly surprising, coming as it does from the Latin word frui meaning to enjoy and to delight in. We enjoy and delight in fruit, but especially in the fruits we ourselves bring forth. But given the vast number of ways in which we can be fruitful, we still need to consider carefully the ways in which we should be fruitful and the ways in which we shouldn’t. For not every way of being fruitful is the way that God wants us to be fruitful.

Now today’s Gospel challenges us to think about the nature of our fruitfulness, for some ways of being fruitful are pleasing to God – these ways correspond to the wheat in the Gospel, whereas some ways of being fruitful are pleasing to the evil one, and these ways correspond to the darnel.

As human beings, we have the capacity for a special kind of fruitfulness, for God made us to be stewards over His creation, and thus actively participate in His dominion over the created order. Indeed, we are the only creatures in the world that have the capacity to think about the future and all the many possible courses of action that we can take. And when our minds are filled with grace, we can look at these many possibilities and ask and pray ‘what does God want me to do?’, ‘how can I participate in God’s providential care of His creation?’ ‘In what way is God calling me to be fruitful?’

One very tangible way that God calls His people to be fruitful is in having children, and it is a way that our Lord Jesus Christ holds in such high esteem that He has instituted marriage as a sacrament. But whether or not anyone is called to marriage, the most important way of being fruitful is to be found in cultivating a love for God in our own souls and in the souls of others, for this is the incorruptible fruit that endures for all eternity.

Nevertheless, today’s Gospel reminds us of the somewhat unsettling fact that we have an enemy who is intent on undermining the fruitfulness that is pleasing to God. We live in a fallen world with lots of poisonous ideas, the fruit of which will make us ill as darnel seeds would. But on the other hand, today’s parable is also very encouraging, for it suggests that the Church will keep being fruitful in a way that pleases God. And so despite all the poisonous ideas and attitudes in our world, their presence is not going to prevent us from bearing the eternal and life-giving fruit of Jesus Christ. Whatever is wrong in the world around us, is not outside the bounds of God’s providence. God so wants us to bear the fruit of eternal life that he will not do anything that would undermine our fruitfulness. God is not going to uproot the evil around us lest we be uprooted as well. The great miracle of our faith is God has redeemed the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that we can bear the fruit that is pleasing to God and that brings joy to our hearts.

Readings: Wisdom 12:13,16-19 | Romans 8:26-27 | Matthew 13:24-43


fr Robert Verrill  lives in the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, where he works at the University chaplaincy while completing a Doctorate at Baylor University, Texas.

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