No Roots--No Fruits

   There is a short phrase in Greek “Kalo Riziko!” that is said to people who are moving into a new city or home. It means “may you put down good roots.” Being uprooted and moved to another place is often traumatic, especially in the case of refugees, i.e. war-torn Syria. So having a good root system is important. Some of us are old enough to remember the landmark television series titled “Roots,” which was about an African American named ‘Kunta Kinte’ discovering the story of his slave ancestors all the way back to their home country. I felt like Kunte Kinte when we travelled to Greece in 1994 to visit for the first time the tiny villages where my mother, grandmother and grandfather were born, and meet relatives I had never seen or knew before. Roots are important. That is why adopted children often seek out their birth parents who did not raise them.

   Jesus is saying to us, “Kalo Riziko!” in today’s Gospel reading from the Fourth Sunday of Luke (8:5-15). “May we put down good roots!” but not in a new house but in a producing a crop.

5“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. 8But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

   Yet, Jesus is not even talking about a crop of food like wheat or barley or vegetables. Explaining the parable, Jesus says,

11“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

   Did you hear that one sentence? 13But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.

   Roots are important, and the root we need to have, according to Jesus, is the root that grows from the seed of the word of God. Why? Because without the root the plant or tree cannot grow and if cannot grow, it cannot produce fruit. Our world needs a lot of good fruit, not just for physical nourishment but more importantly for spiritual sustenance. With good, deep roots we can produce the following.

     22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23). Roots are important! In the Divine Liturgy we pray at the great litany for “favorable weather, temperate seasons and the fruits of the earth” (Great Litany). Certainly this refers to crops of fruit to feed people but it also includes the spiritual fruits of the Holy Spirit.

   For Christians bearing fruit is not an option for Jesus said:

16You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. John 15:16

   The consequences for not bearing fruit are very serious. Again, listen to Jesus:

18Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away. (Mt.21:18-19). The fig tree likely did not have any good roots. Roots are important!

   Fr. Anthony Coniaris (“It Withered Because It Had No Root” Meet Jesus vol.2 p.95) concludes, “No Roots—No Fruits!” But if a tree does have fruit, it will be known by what type because Jesus said:

     17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 7:17-20). We are known by the fruits we bear.

   Good fruit can grow in our lives only if we are rooted in Christ and His Church through faith, prayer and the Eucharist. Again, listen to Jesus teach on this subject.

     1"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)

   Pruning sometimes feels like punishment but we must remember the trials of life are given by God to make us stronger, not weaker. The same is true of roots. Trees that are exposed to strong winds are forced to sink their roots deep into the earth to be able to resist the winds. Sometimes God uses the storms and the adversities of life to strengthen our spiritual root system. When some plants are deprived of water, their roots are forced to grow deeper and deeper in search of moisture. The whole plant is thus made stronger and able to resist serious drought later on.

   Being connected to Jesus is important because    6Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

Often we hear people say, “What does it matter what we believe as long as we do what is right? It matters very much what we believe, because what we do rises from what we believe. Belief is the root of action.

   Jesus is new life, that requires a whole new root system. This life begins in baptism. The old infected root system of Adam is replaced by an entirely new one. The diseased infested roots of our sinful nature are amputated by God’s grace. A new, clean, disease-free, sin-free nature was implanted in us.

     1There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)

   Fr. Coniaris shares a quote from D. Elton Trueblood, “The terrible danger of our time consists in the fact that ours is a cut-flower civilization. Beautiful as cut flowers may be…they will eventually die because they are severed from their sustaining roots. We are trying to maintain the dignity of the individual apart from the deep faith that every man is made in God’s image and is therefore precious.” 

   Those in our own country who deny God, yet cling to the concept of human rights are destroying the very roots which nourish and sustain these precious human values. Cut-off from their Christian roots, human rights and human values wither and die.

   In conclusion, we must remember   The most important part of the Christian life is the part you cannot see, the root system, which enables us to draw upon the deep resources of God that help us prevail against the many evil pressures of life. It may be years before we realize how deeply our spiritual roots have grown as a result of the strong winds and dry periods in our lives.

   7"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 8For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

   Kalo Riziko! Amen!