A Pastor’s Thoughts – On Yielding Fruit

A Pastor’s ThoughtsRev. Steven B. Lewis, Parochial Vicar, The Catholic Parishes of St. Patrick and Blessed Trinity. Photo credit: George Martell.

By Rev. Steven B. Lewis, Parochial Vicar, The Catholic Parishes of St. Patrick and Blessed Trinity —

“Yield” is a reasonable starting word for Wordle. It’s not one I use frequently, but it follows my general strategy to whittle down the vowel possibilities early. 

It turns out the two principle meanings of this word are related, both in the natural order and in the Christian context. To start, one meaning of “yield” is to produce or bring forth, such as a product of cultivation or a return on investment.

In Isaiah 5:1-7, the prophet speaks of the chosen people of his time as producing an undesirable harvest. Every care is given them, the cherished plants in the prophetic imagery: God constructed a protective hedge, wall, and watchtower; God tended to the appropriate pruning, hoeing, and weeding; and God even dug a winepress, trusting in a fine harvest. But the plants yield only wild grapes, not the desired ones.

The consequence for this false yield is destruction of the vineyard. The prophet gives the image a full explanation: the vineyard is the house of Israel. The prophetic lesson, here, is the danger of infidelity. The nation is at risk of falling to its enemies.

Christ also uses the image of a vineyard. In Matthew 21:33-43, the imagery is quite similar, but the symbolic meaning is different. The people of Judah are not the plants, but tenants who have leased the vineyard. It yielded its proper fruit, but the tenants withhold the landowner’s share. They even harm or kill those who are sent to collect it. Here, Christ foreshadows His own death. The deeper lesson of this parable is an explanatory one: how the exclusive relationship between God and a chosen people becomes a blessing open to all peoples.

It is easy to see that, as we have received blessings from God, so we are to yield the fruit that God desires. God calls us, as faithful disciples, to yield. If I ask, “What does my faith yield for me,” that is really the wrong question. If I ask that, it seems as if I am seeking only a comfortable life and that perhaps I go to church only because it makes me feel good about the life I am already living.

A better question to ask is this, “Do I bear fruit,” or, put another way, “What does the practice of my faith yield for others?”

The other meaning of “yield” is to give up possession of, especially a position of advantage or superiority or, in the case of approaching a yield sign on the road, to resolve a question about right-of-way in favor of any other vehicle. Here is how these meanings are related.

While driving, to yield (give up) position yields (brings forth) safety on the road. Plants yield (bring forth) fruit because the soil yields (gives up) nutrients, sunlight yields (gives up) energy, and the skies yield (give up) rain. In a similar way, the Christian yields (brings forth) fruit when the Christian yields (gives up) his or her will to God. 

The pattern is consistent: to give up brings forth. “Thy will be done” is more than a pious sentiment we were taught to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. It is an important and necessary step in living the Christian life.

This is something of a test of any kind of relationship, isn’t it? How strong is my friendship with another person if neither of us ever yields our will to the other? How strong is a marriage if neither spouse ever yields his or her will to the other? How strong is my relationship with God if I never yield my will to God’s will? 

On a personal note, it is time for this member of the local clergy to yield (give up) his position so that another might continue the work to yield (bring forth) the Lord’s harvest here. Effective July 1, the Catholic Bishop of Rochester has assigned me to move to a similar position in Wayne County, New York. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this community in Tioga County and beyond for the last three years, and for the last 18 months to contribute to this column.

May God yield blessings on you all abundantly, that you might yield the desired harvest.

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