For many of us life begins in a hospital and ends in a hospice. Both places help families nurture their loved ones. The fruit of these efforts is desperately needed in a world where life is often treated as a disposable commodity. The professionals staffing these places know the fruit of life has flavor. It nourishes. And though perishable, it yields new life for another season.
This Sunday’s Mass readings offer comfort food for anyone confronting life’s passing seasons, starting with this passage from Sirach:
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had (Sir 27:4-7).
The staff of a hospice gets to know their patients through their patients’ loved ones. As someone lies in a hospice bed, even if no longer able to speak, a caretaker can understand this person’s quality by sampling the fruit of his/her family tree—
–the granddaughter who comes every day to sit vigil by her grandpa’s bedside;
–the loving words spoken by a son to soothe his mother;
–the duties a grandson performs as “power of attorney,” while also accomplishing far more loving and powerful tasks like seeing to it that Gramp’s golf channel is on the TV or his favorite music is on the radio;
–the sister who sees her brother struggling to fulfill these duties and helps out to ensure the best care for both Grampa and Brother;
–the cousins who rally the prayers every family needs to connect with their community.
The fruit of such a family tree will ensure their loved one’s legacy lives on. Therein lies the awesome bounty of God’s harvests.
In Sunday’s second reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians that in Christ we are more than just perishable commodities. The tree from which we sprang is part of a root system that goes back centuries and will give life well beyond our earth’s four seasons. Paul’s words offer fertile soil even more suitable for planting than for burying (1 Cor 15:54-58):
When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility
and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality,
then the word that is written shall come about:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
As families gather to celebrate the lives their parents and grandparents gave them, they are also called to celebrate each other—for in preparing for the passing of those spirits, they also feel them moving within themselves. We are reminded that February is over and another spring is about to begin. It’s time to prepare the soil for another year of growth. Here’s praying that Sunday’s gospel passage (Lk 6:39-45) will feed through the roots of your family tree and reach all of its branches so others families will know the quality of your fruit and realize the great expectations the world’s Creator has for the yields of all the trees He plants:
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit,
nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.
For every tree is known by its own fruit.
For people do not pick figs from thornbushes,
nor do they gather grapes from brambles.