Weeks ago we noticed one of the large apple trees in our neighborhood hadn’t yet come into bud. Its bare form stood alone among all the other trees that had long since flowered and were well into full leaf. I remarked that it must have died, but my husband thought it just needed a little more time to mature. Day after day we’d watch the tree and chat about its progress, until finally we agreed that the harsh winter must have killed it. Figuring it would soon be cut down, we didn’t give it another thought.
Fortunately God doesn’t give up on us that easily. And neither should we be quick to decide on another’s growth. Like trees, we need to mature before we can blossom. We tend to think it’s hopeless when others fail to bud, but God goes on feeding us with the desire that we grow in His love and bear fruit that is recognizable as good. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares Christian disciples with trees—some produce good fruit, others bad. How are we to distinguish between them? The difference can be recognized by the quality of our deeds—the “fruits.”
The lone apple tree we left for dead is now fully leafed and lush with life, but because we gave up on it, we completely missed its spectacular flowering stage of pink and white blossoms. Now, with God’s care, it’s well on its way to bearing shiny red fruit, which is what He wants from each of us. “So by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20).