“Perhaps it will bear fruit. If not, it shall be cut down.” —Luke 13:9
We must bear the fruit of evangelization and holiness. The alternative is to be cut down like an unfruitful tree (Lk 13:7, 9), and get thrown into the fire to be burnt (see Jn 15:5-6), possibly undergoing tragedies (see Lk 13:1-5) on this earth and finally undergoing the ultimate tragedy of everlasting separation from God in hell. Therefore, we must bear fruit both for our own sakes and for the salvation of as many people as possible (1 Cor 9:19).
The Lord is so strict and severe about this because He is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). As Love, He wants all “to be saved and come to know the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). Everyone in the world has the need and the right to hear and see the Christians of this world proclaiming the Gospel and living it in holiness. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). Otherwise, we will be punished.
We can be sure of bearing fruit and of saving ourselves from the terrible effects of fruitlessness by living in Jesus and accepting Him as Lord of our lives so that He will live in us (Jn 15:5). To do this, we must die to ourselves (see Jn 12:24). “Continually we carry about in our bodies the dying of Jesus, so that in our bodies the life of Jesus may also be revealed” (2 Cor 4:10). We either die, live in Christ, and bear fruit, or we live for ourselves, are fruitless, and are doomed. Decide to be fruitful now.
Prayer: Father, like a grain of wheat, I fall to the earth and die to bear much fruit (Jn 12:24).
Promise: “It is [Jesus] Who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers to equip the saints for the work of service to build up the body of Christ.” —Eph 4:11-12, our transl.
Praise: Jessica rejoiced in the deeper unity she and her husband enjoyed after he came into the Church on Easter Vigil.
A sermon by St Peter Chrysologus
The holy Apostle has told us that the human race takes its origin from two men, Adam and Christ; two men equal in body but unequal in merit, wholly alike in their physical structure but totally unlike in the very origin of their being. The first man, Adam, he says, became a living soul, the last Adam a life-giving spirit.
The first Adam was made by the last Adam, from whom he also received his soul, to give him life. The last Adam was formed by his own action; he did not have to wait for life to be given him by someone else, but was the only one who could give life to all. The first Adam was formed from valueless clay, the second Adam came forth from the precious womb of the Virgin. In the case of the first Adam, earth was changed into flesh; in the case of the second Adam, flesh was raised up to be God.
What more need be said? The second Adam stamped his image on the first Adam when he created him. That is why he took on himself the role, and the name, of the first Adam, in order that he might not lose what he had made in his own image. The first Adam, the last Adam; the first had a beginning, the last knows no end. The last Adam is indeed the first; as he himself says: I am the first and the last.
I am the first, that is, I have no beginning. I am the last, that is, I have no end. But what was spiritual, says the Apostle, did not come first; what was living came first, then what is spiritual. The earth comes before its fruit, but the earth is not so valuable as its fruit. The earth exacts pain and toil; its fruit bestows subsistence and life. The prophet rightly boasted of this fruit: Our earth has yielded its fruit. What is this fruit? The fruit referred to in another place: I will place upon your throne one who is the fruit of your body. The first man, says the Apostle, was made from the earth and belongs to the earth; the second man is from heaven, and belongs to heaven.
The man made from the earth is the pattern of those who belong to the earth; the man from heaven is the pattern of those who belong to heaven. How is it that these last, though they do not belong to heaven by birth, will yet belong to heaven, men who do not remain what they were by birth but persevere in being what they have become by rebirth? The reason is, brethren, that the heavenly Spirit, by the mysterious infusion of his light, gives fertility to the womb of the virginal font. The Spirit brings forth as men belonging to heaven those whose earthly ancestry brought them forth as men belonging to the earth, and in a condition of wretchedness; he gives them the likeness of their Creator. Now that we are reborn, refashioned in the image of our Creator, we must fulfil what the Apostle commands: So, as we have worn the likeness of the man of earth, let us also wear the likeness of the man of heaven.
Now that we are reborn, as I have said, in the likeness of our Lord, and have indeed been adopted by God as his children, let us put on the complete image of our Creator so as to be wholly like him, not in the glory that he alone possesses, but in innocence, simplicity, gentleness, patience, humility, mercy, harmony, those qualities in which he chose to become, and to be, one with us.
“Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin.” —Ephesians 4:3
To live lives worthy of our calling as Christians, we must become one as Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are One (see Jn 17:21). We are called to live in divine, Trinitarian, multi-faceted unity. There are seven major facets to our unity with God. “There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Eph 4:4-6).
These many facets themselves are multi-faceted. There is one bread and one body when we receive the body and blood of Jesus in Holy Communion (1 Cor 10:17). In Christian community, we are “of one heart and one mind” (Acts 4:32). In marriage, the husband and wife “are no longer two but one flesh” (Mt 19:6) as they grow to be more deeply of one heart and one mind.
Unity is like a diamond of divinity and Trinity. Unity from God’s perspective is pure simplicity. From our human perspective, unity is a rich complexity. Unity is a mystery and a “great gift of the Holy Spirit” (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 20).
Let us live lives worthy of our call to be one through, with, and in Him. We were created and redeemed to be one. Let us “make every effort to preserve” and deepen our love in the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:3).
Prayer: Father, “how good it is, and how pleasant, where brethren dwell at one!” (Ps 133:1) Give me a heart for Trinitarian unity.
Promise: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.” —Ps 24:3-4
Praise: St. Anthony continued to preach Christ in the face of several assassination attempts.
A letter to Proba by St Augustine
The person who asks for and seeks this one thing from the Lord makes his petition confidently and serenely. He has no fear that, when he receives it, it may harm him, for if this is absent, anything else he duly receives brings no benefit at all. This is the one, true and only life of happiness, that, immortal and incorruptible in body and spirit, we should contemplate the Lord’s graciousness for ever. It is for the sake of this one thing that everything else is sought and without impropriety requested. The person who has this will have all that he wants; in heaven, he will be unable to want, because he will be unable to possess anything that is unfitting.
In heaven is the fountain of life, that we should now thirst for in prayer as long as we live in hope and do not yet see the object of our hope, under the protection of his wings in whose presence is all our desire, so that we may drink our fill from the plenty of his house and be given drink from the running stream of his delights, for with him is the fountain of life, and in his light we shall see light, when our desire will be satisfied with good things, and there will be nothing to ask for with sighs but only what we possess with joy.
Yet, since this is that peace that surpasses all understanding, even when we ask for it in prayer we do not know how to pray for what is right. Certainly we do not know something if we cannot think of it as it really is; whatever comes to mind we reject, repudiate, find fault with; we know that this is not what we are seeking, even if we do not yet know what kind of thing it really is.
There is then within us a kind of instructed ignorance, instructed, that is, by the Spirit of God who helps our weakness. When the Apostle said: If we hope for something we do not see, we look forward to it with patience, he added, In the same way the Spirit helps our weakness; we do not know what it is right to pray for, but the Spirit himself pleads with sighs too deep for words. He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for he pleads for the saints according to God’s will.
We must not understand by this that the Holy Spirit of God pleads for the saints as if he were someone different from what God is: in the Trinity the Spirit is the unchangeable God and one God with the Father and the Son. Scripture says: He pleads for the saints because he moves the saints to plead, just as it says: The Lord your God tests you, to know if you love him, in this sense, that he does it to enable you to know. So the Spirit moves the saints to plead with sighs too deep for words by inspiring in them a desire for the great and as yet unknown reality that we look forward to with patience. How can words express what we desire when it remains unknown? If we were entirely ignorant of it we would not desire it; again, we would not desire it or seek it with sighs, if we were able to see it.