Many little goods can distract us from the one good that God is asking of us. If trouble comes, if suffering strikes us down perhaps it is the Divine Gardener thinning our branches so we can produce larger fruit.
There is this roadside apple tree not far away from the house. Passing it this morning I was struck both by how much fruit a little neglected tree can produce, the gift of the garden and the spark of creation still unfolding, and how weighed down it is — near breaking point.
Like certain fruits, the Reisling grape cultivated initially by the Romans in the Rhine Valley comes to mind, it is said that, “vines need a terrior [an environ of climate and soil] that will gently stress them, so that they produce the best grapes possible, but don’t produce too many”. (1) (2)
Sometimes adversity is needed to produce the best fruit and to strengthen limbs. Today’s reading from St. Paul was about focus on the heavenly kingdom and a stripping back to essentials so that we do not attach ourselves to this world.
About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.
Brothers, this is what I mean: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away. 1 Corinthians 7:25-31
And it is very true. We can become attached to our little missios, our little objectives, goals, missions, and loose sight of the prime one. The only one that matters now, in the “holy now”. Like this forgotten apple tree (I had to run back to get my camera), we can produce much little fruit that will not feed us nor others as it is stymied. Or we can produce larger fruit, if we allow ourselves to be thinned.
Madonna House author, Jude Fischer in her collection of homespun Catholic stories for children writes a revealing allegory (in some ways a baptized version of Plato’s allegory) of just such a process of renewal through thinning – The Cave That Was Full Of Itself. The cave must allow the bear to clean the hollow, all the rocks that have crumbled from its face and which it has collected within itself, so that it may serve its potential.
Today let us examine our multi-verse of service and allow Christ to thin us of that which distract us from the golden apple of the day.