What Fruit Tree Are You?
#WhatFruitTreeAreYou is the podcast for March 3, 2019, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. When the log you remove from your own eye is a fruit tree, what does that have to do with character? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke #Luke6 #Character #Habituation #GoodTree #GoodFruit #SpiritualDirection
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/3/2019 The 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 6:39-45.
Full integration, habituation, and the spiritual life are what this passage from the Gospel of Luke is about today. Huh? What are you talking about, Father?
These are all terms that I use in the practice of spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is walking with someone on their journey and helping them to discern God’s movement in their lives. It is similar to how my grandfather walked with us kids through a forest on the family’s farm of lineage in my home county. He would take us down a path and say, “This is a maple tree, you can tell because its leaves look like this. These are safe mushrooms. Those are not. You can eat these berries off the tree. Do not eat those, they will kill you. Take this path, it leads to water. Do not take that path. It leads to briar bushes, quick sand, and a cliff.”
Imagine if you were to walk through the family forest and try to walk on two paths at the same time. It is impossible. You cannot. When you try to walk down two paths at the same time, you end up standing still. This is what happens in the spiritual life often. Most people think that “spiritual direction” is only about easing the pain we often feel in the spirit. That would be only partially correct. Yet, what people do not realize is that the spirit is put at ease when our inward beliefs are lived out on the path we have been chosen to walk.
When we align our actions in all areas of our life with our beliefs, then we have what spiritual directors call “full integration.” Full integration brings enormous peace. It usually brings enormous activity and change at first. This is because we have stopped standing at the fork in the road between what we say we believe and how we live. We are then able to walk one path.
One of the ways that we can identify this lack of integration in people is when they become judgmental. Have you ever heard of the term “projection” from psychology? A person who is intolerant constantly accuses another of being intolerant. A person who is lazy finds fault with those who are lazy, etc. It only took Sigmund Freud almost two thousand years to catch up with what Jesus is saying here in the Gospel of Luke. This thing where we are criticizing the spec in another person’s eye, while not seeing the ginormous log in our own eye, is projection.
When we use projection to put ourselves above others or make ourselves seem better than others, we have another term for that. We get this word from the fact that we are putting ourselves above judgment. Judgment is for all the “little people.” Judgment is for the “them,” for the “those people,” for the “you know how they are.”
In Greek, the preposition for above is “hupo”. The word for judgment is “krites”. The Greeks just connect the preposition to the noun, like they do in German, and voila! we have “hupokrites” which sounds just like the word “hypocrite” in English. A person who uses projection to shame others is a hypocrite. It is worse when people pretend to be moral when they are really scoundrels. Yet, I have found that when you pretend to be walking on the path to the mountain when you are really walking the path to the valley of death, you usually fall down the hill off the mountain trail at some point.
What Jesus is calling for today when he says, “the good man out of the good treasure in his heart produces good,” is for us to live lives that are full integrated. We know if a person is “full integrated” or not by what we call “habituation.” Simply, habituation is if we are in the habit of doing something. It is how we can tell the character of someone. A person who lies as a habit is a liar. We can call them a liar without any shame to us. We are just saying what they do. They do this because they are not fully integrated and feel a need to cover up the fact that they are walking on the dark path while pretending to be walking on the path of light.
It is the same with a person who is a thief. To steal something once out of desperation or an impulse does not make one a thief. It makes them stupid. Yet, if they steal things over and over and over, then we can call them a thief. Habituation is a telltale sign of the disposition of the heart. Simply, a good tree produces good fruit. Like my grandfather pointed out: don’t eat the berries on this tree, they will kill you.
So, what Jesus is really telling us is that we are all fruit trees. What we feed ourselves in our hearts is important. Are we people who are fed by the spirit that calls us to be honest with who we are? We can deal with who we are if we are honest. Amazingly, if we have a problem with lying and we lie, then stop ourselves, then confess, then ask for forgiveness, others will gladly help us get to where we need to go. Every good fruit tree has a badly shaped piece of fruit, or a piece of fruit that goes bad from time to time, but it habitually gives fruit that is good for the most part. That is what is wanted.
The placement of this passage is important because it is contrasting the kind of religion that Jesus wants us to have with what he is seeing. Christians are supposed to be people who are fully integrated with Christ. It is why we take the Eucharist and ask Jesus himself to enter our bodies and transform us. It is why we pray without ceasing to the Father in Heaven to ‘deliver us from every evil and grant us peace in our day.’ It is why we ask the Holy Spirit to come and ‘change the hearts of His people’. We, as Pope John Paul II used to say, are Christ by virtue of our baptism. Very much what we are talking about when we talk about repenting or conversion is to return to full integration and make the spiritual gifts a habit.
The other day, a friend of mine and a young man with whom he has dealings, a young man who is struggling, and for whom he asks us to pray, were talking on the young man’s front porch. As the mail carrier approached my priest friend started talking and laughing with her. In the course of the conversation, he asked her if she wanted a blessing. She said yes and he blessed her right out there on the front lawn in front of God and everybody! When he finished, the troubled young man looked at him and said, “You are a priest like in the book.” That is full integration and habituation.
Too often, young men like the troubled young man experience the brunt end of justice and they turn away from God. Unfortunately, it is justice from one of us who is projecting our own sin upon others in a hypocritical fashion with no knowledge of how we are walking on the path of darkness. When we do that, we lead others astray. The Lord is asking us to not be those whose religion is only outward but inwardly we are trying to walk down two paths at once.
Jesus wants us to be fully integrated and for our love of God and neighbor to show through our habits of daily life. I invite all of us to take the log out of our own eyes, look at our lives, and begin to make the changes that will fully integrate every area of our lives under the banner “follower of Jesus Christ.” Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2019.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian