Commentary on Luke 6:43-49
In our final reading from Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus speaks of the qualities of a genuine disciple. The goodness of every disciple comes from within and is not to be measured merely by his external behaviour. A really healthy tree cannot produce bad fruit; nor can an unhealthy tree produce genuinely good fruit.
At the same time, consistently good behaviour is a sign of a healthy interior. “Every tree can be told by its own fruit” and “A man’s words flow out of what fills his heart”. We need to focus our energies on our interior spirit. If that is good, the rest will take care of itself.
Another measure of the good disciple is how he listens and acts on the words of his Master. To “listen” includes hearing, understanding, accepting, and assimilating into one’s self the Master’s teaching and vision. The behaviour then follows naturally, spontaneously and, to a large extent, effortlessly.
Such a person is compared to a man who has built his house on a strong foundation. When floods came, the house stood firm. On the other hand, the one who listens but does not take in and so does not act on what he has heard is like a man who built his house on a poor foundation. When the floods came, it collapsed.
This parable needs to be read in the context of the early Church where, in time of persecution, some stood firm because their faith was deeply rooted, while others fell away at the first sign of pressure.
Even if there is no overt persecution of the Christian faith where we live, we live in times which are very threatening to a genuine Christ-centred life. Without a sure foundation, it is very easy to be enticed away to a life of materialism, consumerism, hedonism, and individualism. Because of their superficial attractiveness and their being indulged in by so many around us, these things are often far more insidious than outright attacks on our faith.
In fact, experience shows again and again that nothing strengthens people’s faith more than open persecution. Most of us live in a much more dangerous environment, an environment not of torture and imprisonment but of advertising and media hype promising untold happiness and pleasure, where the vision of the Gospel is ignored or seen as irrelevant. We need to have very sure foundations to live in such a world.