What fruits shall we show the Lord?

Antonio P. Pueyo
October 1, 2005
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Reproduced with Permission

There was a man with independent means and died with a large bank account. In the next life he was assigned a nice room and he was told he had to go to the cafeteria for his meals. The food was excellent. When it was time to pay he asked that it be charged to his bank accounts on earth. The angel acting as cashier told him, “Your money is no good. You have to open an account here. We don’t need cash. We accept deposits of your good deeds on earth.” The man was worried , “I have so little deposit.” The angel said, “Don’t worry, your old driver whose son you sent to school said he will help you pay.” And the man asked, “Am I in heaven then?” The angel told him, “No, not yet. You are in purgatory. You will spend it thanking every one who pays for your meal.”

This Sunday’s first reading (Isaiah 5:1) and the gospel readings mentions fruits and harvests . There were many instances where Jesus used this kind of imagery. He talked of knowing a tree by its fruits (Lk 6:44). A tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down (Lk. 3:9). He who abides in Him bears fruit (Jn. 15:5). There are many more. In the Gospel this Sunday, the parable is told about the unjust tenants who wouldn’t give the fruits of the field to the owner (Mt. 21:34). Why all these stories about fruits?

Is God one who makes a strict accounting of our life, a judge who weighs us in His balance (Dan. 5:27)? If God is so generous, why bother with fruits? Wouldn’t that make his love conditional? Is His love conditioned by our efforts?

Indeed God is so gracious and generous that He even hires people and pays them fully at the eleventh hour. He may be so generous as to invite people from the highways and by-ways to His banquet, but he also demands that those who come wear the wedding garments (Mt. 22:12). Aside from his generosity, another quality of God is revealed in the Gospel. God values faithful stewardship. Since stewardship is an exercise in responsibility, it follows that God puts premium on our sense of responsibility. We are responsible for our life and for everything else that the Father has entrusted to us in this life.

To be responsible is to be accountable to somebody. The tenants in the Gospel did not want to make accounts with the land owner. They refused to be accountable. They had pretensions at ownership. They wanted to enjoy the bounty of the land without accountability.

Action starter: To whom are you responsible for what?

Bounty without accountability, privileges without obligations. I want to enjoy the conveniences of driving a car but I don’t want to observe traffic rules. I want to earn a degree but I don’t like to do term papers. I want to be promoted and enjoy a higher salary without accomplishing work targets. Responsibility indicates being responsible to somebody. It is being response-able. It is the ability to respond to the demands of God, society, and self.

To be responsible is also to be responsible for the task or role at hand. A responsible person is focused on his work. A sign of irresponsibility is sloppy work, which is the result of a lack of focus. A person who is truly focused on his work does not even notice the passing of time. Work becomes art.

I once observed a wood carver. He carved designs into chairs, tables, and cabinets. He was fully concentrated as he worked. He worked on each piece of furniture as if it was the only furniture he would carve. Each of his work was a piece of art and appreciated by the buyers. Not only was he trying to please the buyers. He wanted to please himself . He was exercising stewardship over his talent.

Faithful stewards are hard to come by. For some of us who still live in a culture where we can afford to have house maids, drivers, tenants, and servants, we know how difficult it is to look for one who is truly loyal and devoted. Fortunate is the person who finds one such steward - one who will be with the family for many years, or truly become a member of the family.

The Lord doesn’t just seek faithful, loyal, and responsible stewards who will present the fruits at harvest time. He wants to bring us into His household as a member of the family, no longer servants but friends (Jn. 15:15).