A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. . . . A good person out of the store of goodness in one’s heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (LK 6:39-45)
Okay. I have some questions about this.
I would like to say that I can tell a good person from a bad person by what they do in the world, by the “fruit” they produce. However, people who are good sometimes do rotten things. In fact, I hope that I am a good person, but I have done rude or hurtful things plenty of times. I don’t necessarily try to do evil; it’s just that sometimes my selfishness or pride or insecurity get the better of me, and I act out of them instead of out of love. When that happens, I don’t grow good fruit in the world but instead dump out a bucket full of rottenness.
Likewise, I have been fooled by people who seemed to harvest good fruit. I tend to be a little naïve, and I have misplaced my trust in people who have taken advantage of me. Their fruit looked good. Maybe they were good people at the core, but their intentions turned out to be rotten.
Which brings me to this question: are people really all good or all bad? Aren’t most of us a mix of both, just trying to do the best we can?
This reminds me of a quote from the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is afraid that, because of his connection to the evil Lord Voldemort, he himself is becoming evil. He expresses his fear to his beloved mentor, Sirius Black, who reassures him with these words:
You're not a bad person. You are a very good person who bad things have happened to. Do you understand? Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters. We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are.
Maybe that’s what Jesus is saying after all. We each have the ability to produce good fruit, to act out of the goodness – the God-ness – inside of us. But we also have it in us to act out of what’s not of God. My decision to do good, to move in the direction of the Spirit, (or not!) reflects on who I am as a person.
This could be a tool to help us to learn about ourselves and where our lives are going. If I take time to reflect on what I’m putting out into the world, I may gain a clear picture of the direction in which I’m moving. If what I’m bringing forth is mostly loving, and if what I’m feeling is peace and joy and general contentment, then I’m moving toward God. If what I’m putting out there is hurting others and myself, and if what I’m feeling is anxiety, anger, impatience, or despair, then I’m moving away from God.
Not a bad thing to reflect on right before Lent, is it?
How does this resonate with you?
Is the “fruit” you are producing in the world these days mostly good or rotten? How do you know?
Are you acting out of your light or your darkness?
Where is God for you in all of this?
By Sister Leslie Keener, CDP
Sister Leslie Keener, CDP is the director of God Space, a community-building spirituality ministry in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. She’s a Sister of Divine Providence with a Masters in Ministry and a Certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreats from Creighton University. She directs retreats, meets with people for spiritual direction, and serves as the vocation director for her community. She also serves on the Coordinating Council of Spiritual Directors International. She enjoys music, meaningful conversations, and dancing.