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Kerry WeberJune 21, 2024
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By their fruits you will know them.

Find today’s readings here.

We recently planted an apple tree in our backyard, an effort that proved more romantic in theory than in practice. Exhausted after maneuvering it sideways to fit in our minivan, we stored it in our garage until we found the energy to dig a hole of the required size, which as it turns out is quite large. On a sunny afternoon, my husband and I began to dig, with the “help” of our three children, who cheerfully and repeatedly caused the hole to cave in on itself. The effort also included adding a “soil conditioner,” which meant hauling wheelbarrows full of compost from our compost bin, a process accompanied by the requisite squealing (both delighted and frightened) about worms. Then we soaked the ground with water to give the tree a healthy drink.

In the end, the tree may have taken longer to plant than anticipated, but we put in the work because we wanted to be sure that our efforts would set it up for successful growth. We wanted to give the tree strong foundations and enable it to grow a deep root system, with sufficient nutrients for what it needs. It has only been a few weeks, but my 8-year-old already is checking the tree for apples. I’ve let him know, however, that they won’t appear for a few years; we must wait for the tree to mature a bit. Of course, in the meantime, we will continue to care for the tree, in the hope that our work will eventually yield a fruitful harvest.

The Gospel today tells us to beware of false prophets and advises: “By their fruits you will know them.” But our efforts in tree planting have reminded me of the role a good, nurturing foundation plays in people, too. None of us are predestined to bear good or bad fruit. We are shaped by our families, our friends, our environments, our traumas and our neighborhoods. And even under difficult circumstances, life can bloom when we take the time to nurture one another.

It is easy and often tempting to spend our time simply trying to label people as one might a tree, rooting out the “good” from the “bad.” But people are capable of amazing growth, and all children of God, which is to say, all of us, have the potential for good. It takes real work to support growth in one another, to spend the time that is required to keep one another strong enough, healthy enough to bear good fruit in our lives. Often it is more difficult in practice than in theory. But it is always worth the effort.

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