The Fruit We Bear

deeplyrooted…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Jesus was speaking about false prophets, a warning to his disciples. Not bad advice in general.

Perhaps not a bad criteria to judge those who would minister in the name of the Church – from volunteer to Bishop. The problem these days is that I wonder whether we would agree of what constitutes “good fruit” from a ministry or minister. There are places in which good fruit is measured by the liturgical celebrations of solemnities, feasts, and memorials; other places via outreach ministries. I was once told I was a poor minister and pastor because I dishonored the Blessed Virgin Mary. The instance was just having celebrated a Mass and did not center the homily on Mary. It was the Feast of the Ascension. Continue reading

Bearing good fruit

deeplyrooted-crToday there is an optional memorial: St. Cyril of Jerusalem. You can find the readings here. Along with Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril was a great defender of the Faith. St. Cyril’s is also noted for the twenty-three lectures given to catechumens in Jerusalem being prepared for, and after, baptism. Quite appropriate for this Lenten season.

Given my middle name is Cyril. I thought it good to celebrate this memorial, especially here in Lent. And given that I suspect this will be my last public Mass before our Bishop suspends all public masses because of the Covid-19 virus – I thought it good to offer some advice about being deeply rooted in Christ and still bearing fruit, even as the world around us sequesters in place. Continue reading

Controlling chaos

We friars assist as Catholic chaplains at Tampa General. It is not my first time as a hospital chaplain.  That was at Bethesda Naval Hospital. My time at Bethesda was at the beginning of the war in Iraq when the Marines were engaged in combat around Fallujah. Casualties were high. Every evening there was a chaplain assigned to the flight line to be there when marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers were medevac’d from the war zone. All of these service men and women were in grave medical conditions. I witnessed injuries that still left me amazed that the person was still alive. Alive with lives that would never be the same, never as they had planned. But the combat/trauma ICU and the flight line were not the hardest chaplain duty at Bethesda – at least not for me.  For me, the hardest ward was the NICU; the neo-natal intensive care unit. Continue reading

A Stone Rejected: vintage time

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineCommentary. This parable begins much like Isaiah 5:1-2 (the reading from the OT accompanying our gospel). It is the third parable in Matthew with a vineyard setting (20:1-16, the workers in the vineyard; 21:28-32, the two sons). What does the vineyard represent? In Isaiah it represents Israel and many have assumed that is its meaning in the parable, e.g., the vineyard = Israel; the tenants = religious leaders; landowner’s slaves = prophets whom they rejected. With this interpretation, we note that the vineyard is not destroyed, but turned over to new tenants. To use another biblical metaphor, the unfaithful, greedy shepherds are removed (Mt 9:36; Ezekiel 34) and new shepherds are installed to care for the sheep. Continue reading

The promise

deeplyrooted-crThere is something poetic, mysterious, and magical about a vineyard before the harvest on an early morn with the dew on the vine and a just-rising sun glistening upon the fruit. In the full light of day, if you are like me, you probably do not have any experience in the vineyards except perhaps as a visitor.

The vineyard does not just happen by itself. There is complex dance between the vine, the branches and the vine grower. For example, did you know that a single grape-vine can produce as much as 13 feet of new branch growth in one growing season. What happens if all that new growth remained un-pruned? It would not be unusual for that un-pruned vine to have as many as 300 fruit producing buds. While that might sound great, that’s way too many buds for the plant to support. You might have lots of produce, but it will be incredibly low quality, and good for not much. It would probably just end up as fuel for the fire. You would have to remove as much as 75% of the buds and other vegetative growth so the plant can properly develop and ripen the good fruit. The goal is always good fruit. Continue reading

When vintage time draws near

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineCommentary. This parable begins much like Isaiah 5:1-2 (the reading from the OT accompanying our gospel). It is the third parable in Matthew with a vineyard setting (20:1-16, the workers in the vineyard; 21:28-32, the two sons). What does the vineyard represent? In Isaiah it represents Israel and many have assumed that is its meaning in the parable, e.g., the vineyard = Israel; the tenants = religious leaders; landowner’s slaves = prophets whom they rejected. With this interpretation, we note that the vineyard is not destroyed, but turned over to new tenants. To use another biblical metaphor, the unfaithful, greedy shepherds are removed (Mt 9:36; Ezekiel 34) and new shepherds are installed to care for the sheep. Continue reading