Spiritual Reflection – Fruit Bearing
Jesus makes the point that the only way that a seed can produce its fruit is by dying. Death is the doorway by which we enter into life. It is not easy for us to appreciate how this stark message can be termed “Good News.”
When we are in the midst of life, full of gratitude for God’s beautiful gifts—enjoying the resources we have, the love in which we share, good health and life itself—it seems like a cruel sentence that we must relinquish all of these in order to obtain what Christ has promised. Like some of the first disciples, we are inclined to complain, “This is a hard saying; who can bear it?” Such a precept is indeed a narrow gate, the eye of a needle at which we affluent camels baulk.
No wonder that there is a near-universal tendency to water down the costly demands of the Gospel discipleship. We try to transform Christianity into a feel-good or do-good religion, a means of enhancing our present life.
Real Christianity is unthinkable unless we understand it in terms of a future life. “If for this life only we have hope in Christ Jesus, then, of all people, we are the most to be pitied.” Faith is necessarily connected with the unseen realities of eternal life. This future existence, “which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered our heart to imagine,” is what gives meaning to our present experience of suffering and will make even our death seem tolerable. When Jesus bids us take up our cross, it is not intended as a call to a life of misery or a summons to annihilation; it is, rather, an invitation to give priority to the highest gifts of God, to set our hearts on things that are above and not on those which are on the earth.
The seed that dies does no more than relinquish the mediocre level of existence with which it is familiar in the process of moving to the more bountiful stage of its natural life cycle, bearing fruit. Death in all its myriad forms is a natural element in life as we know it. The Good News to which our faith leads us is that our final death is not the end, but rather an entrance into a higher, more fruitful, and, ultimately, more satisfying form of life. The tender compassion of our God has prepared for us something far better than anything we have yet experienced, and it is worth losing anything and everything in order to obtain it.
Michael Casey. Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2019), eBook Location 2995.