Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The limits of metaphor

In the gospel today Jesus uses the image of trees and fruit to make his point and the passage ends with the famous

By their fruits you will know them 

While it is true that people are to be judged by the "fruit" that they bear. This passage also points to the serious limitation of this metaphor. 

An apple tree cannot produce cherries. A fig tree cannot produce persimmons. Trees produce a single fruit. And the tree has no choice about the fruit it produces. 

We humans produce a variety from the truly loving and selfless, to the evil and selfless. And except for the cases of medical issues or coercion, we choose. We not only choose the kind of fruit we will produce, we choose how we will be nourished. 

A tree has no say in the water or fertilizer. We choose. And parents choose for their children, admittedly to an ever decreasing degree as the child ages. If we water the tree with a steady stream of anger, hate pornogrpahy, and violence. It is unlikely that it will bear good fruit. Even the stream of so-called news is good for the soul.  How many people keep one of these channels running all day long?

We should be well informed about the world in which we live, but we need to balance the darkness with light. Spiritual reading, particularly the Bible, prayer, quiet time for mediation, art, nature, conversation with those friends that bring out our better selves are just a few examples. 

If we wish to bear good fruit, we must be well nourished. Most of all, we must remember what Jesus tells us in the Gospel

Apart from me you can do nothing