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This week finds me on the road for business again, specifically in Nashville, Tennessee, for two days and nights. After a long day of meetings I chose not to join my co-workers this evening at the restaurant where we usually go because I didn’t want to overindulge on their generous portions and delicious food. I am trying to minimize the opportunities for temptation to seize me. So, instead, I decided to make a trip to Kroger and purchase a healthier and more appropriately sized meal.

On the way to Kroger I happened to pass by the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. This in itself was sort of a serendipitous event because, for a city the size of Nashville, there really aren’t very many Catholic churches. The sign out front announced there was a Wednesday evening mass at 6:00 p.m., which was only 20 minutes away. My first thought was how attending mass would be a wonderful way to de-stress and refresh from a day of learning we would have to do more with already stretched resources. My second thought was how once again, through a “God-moment”, He shows up just when I need Him.

I parked, found my way to the front door, and entered the church. I was the first one in the church other than the lector, who was practicing his reading, so I knelt and got some good prayer time in. When mass started I was one of nine people in the congregation.

The first reading came from 2 Kings but, between my hard-hearing and the lector’s soft voice, I failed to grasp most of the reading. Then, the pastor of Holy Rosary, Rev. Mark Hunt, delivered the gospel for the day, loudly and clearly such that I could hear each word:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire. So by the fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

Well, I don’t know about you but it always takes some dedicated effort on my part, or stooping to ask someone else, to get straight in my mind what Jesus meant in some of his parables. Just after I had resigned myself to stew on this later this evening, Fr. Mark delivered his homily with a message that helped explain it for me. I feel obligated to share with you the salient part of his homily in the best rendition I can muster:

“One day a man invited his boss to his home for dinner with him and his family. The boss was the type who had worked hard for his position but held himself in very high esteem and often let his employees know just how highly he regarded himself. After a fine dinner with the man, his wife and his son, during which the boss repeatedly expounded on his many accomplishments, the boss became aware of the boy staring at him. Not used to receiving this kind of treatment, the boss asked, ‘Excuse me lad, why are you staring at me?’ The son answered, ‘My dad says you are a self-made man.’ The boss, puffing up his chest, responded, ‘Yes, I am, but what is it about my success that is causing you to stare?’ ‘Well’, the son answered again, ‘I was just wondering why you made yourself such a jerk!’”

Thank you, Fr. Mark, for the lesson on the importance of humility, for explaining the difference between the good and bad trees, and the fruit that both bear. And, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you knew the boss I had back in ’95 and ’96!

“Heavenly Father, please forgive me for those times I have been a ‘rotten tree’ and have surely put on airs to impress myself and others. I beseech You to grace me with humility and a desire to serve others that allows me to be a ‘good tree’ from which may be harvested ‘good fruit’. Amen.”


(The post, The Rotten Tree, was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)