Bearing Much Fruit

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for Sunday, the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year B) – Acts 9:26-31; Psalms 22:26-27, 28, 30, 31-32; First John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8. This series appears each Wednesday.

Photography © by Andy Coan

Doing more harm than good

No one was more zealous than Saul.  He burned with passion to promote the Law of Moses and the traditions of his ancestors.  From Turkey to Palestine to Syria he had relentlessly pursued his quest for the glory of God.

But all his hard work did more harm than good.  Oh, his efforts bore fruit all right – the sour grapes of legalism, intolerance, and oppression.  No wonder many Christians had second thoughts about accepting him as a brother, even after the Damascus road incident.  Given his track record, I’m not sure I would have trusted him either.

Saul was not too different from lots of would-be reformers and crusaders throughout history.  Robespierre, Lenin, Mao, and Bin Laden all took up the sword in the name of justice and truth.

What they and Saul failed to understand was that corruption in society flow from corruption in the human heart.  And the toxin isn’t manufactured in the hearts of just a few rotten apples, but rather is found in the hearts of every descendant of Adam and Eve.  The apple our first parents ate in the garden contained this toxin of injustice, and it’s been passed down from generation to generation ever since.  The long-term side-effect of this forbidden fruit is to spoil the fruit of even the best and brightest among us.

Faith and Love made possible by the Spirit

What is the sweet, life-giving fruit that we were designed to bear?  The first letter of John sums it up – faith and love made possible by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus.  Christ, the true vine, revealed the meaning of love when, nailed to a tree and exposed to ridicule, he prayed not for vengeance, but for the pardon of his persecutors.  When his sacred side was pierced, life-giving sap gushed forth from this Vine and flows still every time the sacrament of his body and blood is celebrated.  To drink of the cup is to take into our selves that healthy blood that purifies our diseased blood, flushing out the toxic residue of sin.  His blood is revitalizing and nourishing, like life-giving sap that enables us to bear the luxuriant, delectable fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).

Once Saul was plunged into the baptismal pool and received the life-giving blood of Christ, his fruit was instantly transformed from sour to sweet.  Rage was transformed into compassion, self-righteousness into humility.  The Pharisee who had tried to force everyone into his mould is now willing to become all things to all men in order to free them from the bondage that he himself suffered for so many years.  Twenty centuries later, his writings, fully 25% of the New Testament scriptures, are still bearing bumper crops of fabulous fruit.

Many of us never caused as much trouble as Saul did.  Fortunately, we did not bear as much rotten fruit.  But that’s only because we really don’t bear much fruit at all, bad or good.  We know about truth and goodness and love, but we are content to simply talk about these things.

Let it be known that passive admiration of goodness is simply not an option for those who wish to be true disciples of Jesus Christ.  Disciples are those who follow a master in thought, word, and action.  He bore abundant fruit, so we as disciples and members of his body, are called to bear much fruit as well.  We are called to love in deed and truth and not merely talk about it in committee meetings.

That’s what the Sacrament of Confirmation, being celebrated in many parishes during Eastertide, is really all about.  It is a commission to share in the mission of the church and bear much fruit for Christ.  Thankfully, it communicates to all those who receive it, the spiritual sap of the Spirit that makes possible high yields even from the most lowly, ordinary branches.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor and is reproduced here by permission of the author.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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