Talk about bearing fruit in adverse conditions! St. Paul writes this beautiful letter of thanksgiving and encouragement to the Christians of Philippi from his prison cell in Rome. He exhorts them to “have this mind among them which was in Christ Jesus.” He meant the mindset by which Jesus bore the fruit of our salvation on the painful cross by “emptying Himself, taking the form of a slave, humbling Himself and being obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Because Christ bore fruit on the cross, they too will bear fruit in all conditions of life only if they cultivated this mind of Christ.
St. Paul also gave them the steps to cultivate this mind of Christ.
The first step is a trusting prayer, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” In and through this prayer dialogue with Jesus, they are also to be open to receive the thoughts of Christ and think His thoughts, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and gracious…, think about these things.”
Thirdly, they are to act on what Christ reveals to them and not just think about it, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and seen in me.” Pray, think, act, and they will bear fruit always, especially the fruit of peace, “Then the peace of God will guard your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus…Then the God of peace will be with you.”
The tenants in the parable of Mt 21:33-43 had mindsets completely different from those of the landowner. They did not know his mind and they did not care to know his mind about anything — his well-furnished vineyard, the time he gave them to bear fruit, the servants he sent, and the son he sent at the end. In short, they hated the landowner and all who were close to him.
The presence of the son leads them to reveal their true evil intentions towards the landowner and his son, “This is the heir. Come let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” They really intended to have and enjoy this vineyard and produce for themselves without a relationship with the son or landowner and without bearing appropriate fruit.
While the landowner sent servants to obtain the produce of the vineyard, he sent his son to reconcile the rebellious tenants with him. He assumed, “They will respect my son.” The son made present to them the father’s offer of reconciliation. Rejecting the reconciliation offered by the landowner through his son, they experienced the wrath of the landowner and lost everything — the vineyard, their peace, and their lives.
This parable applies to every single Christian who has been baptized, incorporated into Christ, and brought into the Lord’s vineyard to labor for the salvation of souls. God the Father bestows on us all that we need to bear fruit in righteousness and holy witness in this world no matter the conditions that we find ourselves in. Because we are His vineyard, God can rightly lament to us all, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?”
But we abuse and misuse God’s great riches because we have not cultivated in us the very mind of God that He offers us only in Jesus Christ. Hence, we do not live fully according to the divine purpose regarding everything in our lives. We even reject the reconciliation and mercy that God offers us in His Son despite our rebellion. Like the wicked tenants, we choose to experience the wrath of God when we spurn His mercy offered to us.
In his impactful little book, Prayer for Beginners, Peter Kreeft had this to say about prayer, “Prayer gives truth to our mind, goodness to our will, and beauty to our heart.” He reminds us that we love and need these three attributes of God the most — truth, goodness and beauty. Prayer, he said, “puts us in the presence of Truth itself, the divine Mind who designed our minds and our lives and our whole universe.” This allows us to know unchanging truth, love only what is truly good for us, and to be enamored and attracted by only what is truly beautiful. This is how we can develop the mind of Christ in this world and bear fruit in all conditions of our life without succumbing to the many temptations and false teachings of our times.
What happens when our minds are devoid of truth? When our wills fail to love goodness and our emotions are insensitive to real beauty? We become so wimpy that we cannot stand steadfastly for anything true, good, and beautiful. Our priests and bishops do not speak the difficult saving truths of the Gospel but give in to popular opinion and current fads. We sacrifice truth for tone. The faithful lose that repulsion that they should have towards sin to the point that they cannot see any difference between God’s unchanging plan for marriage between a man and a woman and the so-called “same-sex” marriage. We even become apathetic and unmoved as millions of babies are slaughtered inside and outside the womb. Little wonder why many Catholics can’t just see why they should not vote for political parties that endorse, promote, and perform the most wicked act of abortion of infants and their murder after birth. I fear that we have not even began to cultivate the mind of Jesus.
Our conditions have changed in this world as we continue to struggle with the reality of Covid-19 and they will continue to change. But the demands of God as we labor in His vineyard and bear fruit in souls for His kingdom do not and will not change, no matter what some people may think or say. The consequences of not bearing fruit and rejecting His mercy are still the same – the flames of hell. The reward for bearing fruit and accepting His mercy remains eternal life with Him. For us to bear fruit in all these conditions, we must cultivate this mind of Christ, and this begins with our living contact with Jesus in prayer as St. Paul reminds us.
Our homes and Churches must become schools of contemplation where we learn to pray and listen to God in prayer with the word of God. Gone are the days when we limit our prayer to mere petitions and novenas while worshipping ourselves and our ideologies. We must begin to contemplate Jesus Christ like never before because in Him we make contact with the mind of God and our own deepest thoughts and motives. We must gaze on Him with faith, hope and love. Secondly, we must be ready to reveal to Him all our own thoughts, feelings, and desires in life and receive from Him all His thoughts that He offers to us. He will never reveal Himself and His saving truths to us when we are not honestly and trustingly revealing ourselves to Him. Lastly, we beg from Him the grace needed to act on what has been revealed to us in our moments of prayer.
Speaking of Mary’s Magnificat in his apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has these beautiful words to speak about the prayer of Mary with the word of God:
“Here we see how completely at home Mary is with the word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the word of God; the word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God. Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.”
Mary bore fruit always in all conditions of her life, even during those dark moments under the cross of her Son. Her fruit is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She bore fruit always because she shared perfectly in the very mind of God by her own life of prayer, thought, and action on God’s words by faith. She also asks us and helps us to the same today, “Do whatever He tells you,” because God is still speaking to us always through Jesus Christ. If we heed her voice, praying, thinking, and acting like she did, we too will bear fruit in all conditions of our lives, especially the fruit of peace.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!