It sounds like John was having a bad day. The Pharisees and Sadducees arrive on the scene and John nearly loses it. He calls them a brood of vipers, compares them to stones and then tells them that if they don’t change their sinful ways, they’ll be cut down like dead trees. He says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” It’s a harsh image. Why would we destroy trees that don’t bear good fruit?
Farmers around the world who depend on their fruit trees for their income know that one bad tree can hurt their entire crop. Fidencio, a coffee farmer who lives in Narino, Colombia, knows his family’s well-being depends on his ability to continue to produce good fruit. To do that, he has to pay close attention to the coffee trees that do not bear good fruit, and make sure they do not affect the rest of the crop. This is a very real concern for farmers like Fidencio, because many coffee trees where he lives are infected with a deadly fungus called leaf rust that can spread to other trees. Sometimes the farmers have to cut down infected trees to save the rest of the crop.
Just as Fidencio must rid his coffee farm of disease that will damage his trees, we must prune our lives of the things that damage our relationship with God, ourselves and others. By doing so, we can bear the good fruit that John the Baptist talks about.
PRAY: Creator God, you are the master gardener. Help me to bear good fruit in my life—for myself, for my family and for my community. Amen
REFLECT: What do I need to stop doing or get rid of in my life in order to bear good fruit?
ACT: This week, prune your life of one or more material items you no longer need and donate them to charity. Oftentimes the clutter of everyday objects prevents us from focusing on what leads us to Christ. Think of other ways to bring the good fruit of mercy to others. Consider supporting farmers like Fidencio by purchasing coffee for holiday gifts from CRS partners at crsfairtrade.org.