Productivity and Sanctity
By Joseph Summers
At the start of this new year I am moved to reflect on what I’ve done this past year and what I will do this year. It is always a good feeling checking things off of my “To Do List”, each check a personal monument to some small accomplishment. I am a list guy, you can ask my wife, she has the task of picking up all the wrinkled papers that make their way from my pockets to my bedside table. Lists keep me organized, they help me focus. Lists help me to be productive. And while I have no desire to wage war on productivity (productivity is awesome!), the LORD is reminding me at the dawn of this new year, that productivity is no substitute for sanctity! The world doesn’t really need Christians to do more, the world needs saints to do more things.
God is interested in our productivity. Most of us are familiar with the Biblical adage “Judge a tree by its fruits” (see Lk 6:44). God wants to see fruits. (Catholics especially believe this, understanding that salvation is tied to the works that we do!) As a matter of fact, we had better bear fruit! The outcome Jesus depicts for those followers of His who are not fruitful is pretty harsh, they are the branches that are to be thrown into the fire. In the Gospel of John, Jesus even cues us into the kind of fruit He is looking for: “Bear fruit that will remain” (15:16).
What is the fruit that remains? It appears Jesus isn’t just interested in us producing things for the sake of producing them. He wants houses built on Rock, not sand. Anything anchored in this passing world, isn’t anchored at all! Jesus is not impressed by fading fruits! Too often I am tempted to feel good about all the things I’ve accomplished, and checked off of my list, that have no eternal significance. I don’t want my life to be a house of cards, I want to yield fruits fit for eternity. HOW? The answer is simple. You see, when Jesus tells us He wants fruits that remain, He is also clear on how we get them: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5) Good fruits come from good trees! Eternal fruits come from the Eternal Vine! Apart from Christ, I am incapable of producing everlasting fruits, in the same way that the branches I cut off my blueberry tree don’t make blueberries. (Actually even the branches still on my blueberry tree don’t make blueberries, but that is another blog post altogether.) If the tree is good, the fruit is good, its just that simple. Simple, however, is not synonymous with easy! Remaining in Him, doesn’t just happen, it takes lots of effort! (Hey, maybe that is what is wrong with my blueberry trees?) Mother Teresa didn’t just wake up a saint one day, and neither will I. This year, the number one priority on my “To Do List” had better be abiding in JESUS. If I want all those little lists to be of any real value, I need to make sure that my life is rooted in the LORD: daily prayer, reading scripture, frequenting the Sacraments. As I become more like Christ, I know my life, and all the things I do, will remain.