From mere productivity to wholehearted fruitfulness

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with the Editor

Apr 26, 2024

5th Sunday of Easter (B)
Readings: Acts of the Apostle 9:26-31;
1 John 3:18-24
Gospel: John 15:1-8

Think about what you do in your daily life that just leaves you exhausted. I am talking about the things that leave you emotionally drained and physically worn out. These are not the kind of things for which sleeping late, taking a day off, or going on vacation are the antidote. It’s about more than just being tired. The constant physical and emotional striving depletes and empties our spirit. You feel your soul drying out even as your tears get closer and closer to overflowing. You do what you’ve got to do but it’s not really what you want to do. You give your time and your effort but not your heart.

Now think about those things you do that seem effortless. They just flow. You’re in the zone. They are the things in which you totally immerse yourself. You bring all that you are and all that you have. You hold nothing back. You give it your all and you wouldn’t have it any other way. You feel light as a feather. You feel full and complete. You look at the clock and wonder where the time went.

You don’t want to stop and when you do you can’t wait until you can start again. This is about wholeheartedness and it’s the antidote to exhaustion.

We are a people of productivity. It is, for the most part, the standard by how we live and the measure of our success. It is built into our lives everywhere. Productivity is the basis of our economic system. Those who produce are rewarded and get more. Those who do not produce are thrown out. Within our educational system the students who do well and produce are recognised and supported while those who do not produce get lost in the system. Careers and promotions are based on productivity.

I wonder if we sometimes let our productivity high jack our fruitfulness and wholeheartedness. We get the job done and we pay our way, but at what cost? We have been convinced that productivity is the goal and only the fittest survive. I wonder if that isn’t how many of us live our spiritual lives. How many of us have been told, in some form or fashion, or come to believe that pruned branches go to heaven and removed branches go to hell? Pruned branches produced so they are rewarded while non-productive branches are punished.

If we are not careful, we’ll get stuck categorising ourselves and one another into fruit bearing or non-fruit bearing branches. There is, however, a deeper issue than the production of fruit. Productivity does not usually create deep abiding and intimate relationships. It creates transactions. Jesus is not talking about or demanding productivity. He wants and offers connectivity, relationship, and intimacy.

And let’s be honest, by conventional standards, Jesus might not seem like the picture of success or productivity. He wasn’t employed in the traditional sense and relied on benefactors for sustenance. And there’s just not much to go on a resume - born in Bethlehem, briefly unaccounted for at 12, baptised at 30, itinerant preacher for three years, concluding with his death at 33 and resurrection three days later. What did He really do on a daily basis?

For three years He showed up. He was present. He listened. He loved. He connected with people. He prayed. He was faithful and obedient. He told stories about life and finding meaning. He offered mercy and forgiveness. He shared meals. He was compassionate. He touched the hurting and broken places in people’s lives. He had a vision for a new life and a different way of being in the world. He offered hope. He pointed to a life beyond his own. He helped people connect with themselves, one another, and God. He didn’t do all that much, but he made a huge difference. In short, he was more fruitful than productive.

That’s how I want to live, don’t you? I want my life to matter. I want my life to have meaning. I want to give myself to what is worthwhile. I want to make a difference. I want to give priority to people and relationships. I want be deeply connected. I want to blossom and grow.

“What fruit am I producing?” “How much?” “Is it an acceptable quality?” Those are good questions if we understand and ask them diagnostically, as questions not about the quantity of our lives but the quality of our lives. That’s what Jesus is after. That is the deeper question He is asking. It is the invitation to join the conversation, jump into the game, to participate, and to live fully alive.

Such fulfilment arises when the life, love, goodness and holiness of Christ flows through us, transforming us into bearers of His essence. This connection is like that of a branch to the vine, deeply unified. Our lives intertwine, not only in our relationship with Jesus but also as the foundation for our relationships with each other.

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