Sunday, July 31, 2011
The 7th Sunday after Pentecost
My dear faithful:
Sometimes the Gospel story contains hidden truths, a deeper message contained in an outwardly simple story. Often we need to use our brains to decipher what Our Lord is telling us or the reasons why he acts in such or such a way. Not so this week. For this Sunday’s Gospel for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost is a very very simple message. It is repeated twice in the Gospel today. And it is this: “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Know whom? Our Blessed Lord has been telling us about false prophets, and we should take a couple of minutes to try and figure out who are today’s false prophets. A prophet is not just somebody who tells us what’s going to happen in the future. And let’s face it when we think about somebody prophesying, that’s what we think of, isn’t it? But a prophet is far more than that. He is actually someone who speaks for God, or someone who speaks with divine inspiration. So in a certain sense then, the priest—who after all stands before you every Sunday morning and claims to speak for God—the priest can be called a prophet. It would seem that he is at least the closest we come to a prophet in these latter days.
So it would not be wrong to say today “Beware of false priests!” That brings things a little closer to home. Because these false priests, according to Our Lord, come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Now you can imagine what damage a hungry ravening wolf would do in the midst of a flock of poor sheep, can’t you! And so it is when one of these false priests finds himself in charge of a parish of nice, God-fearing, meek and humble Christians. He destroys them. Their money, which they sacrifice so carefully for the weekly collection, he takes and spends on himself for a life of luxury. Their work and toil, he abuses so that they work and toil for him, while he sits at ease in his recliner, sipping cocktails and smugly mocking their labours. And all this is only the start. Then he gets going on their souls! Because eventually the wolf-priest builds up a powerful little empire, where his subjects are told to do this or that at his whim. And if they refuse…? Well, there’s the door, my dear faithful, if you don’t do what I say, then I don’t have to give you the sacraments! Swear an oath before the Blessed Sacrament to get rid of your television, or I won’t give you absolution. Don’t go to so-and-so’s Mass at the church down the road, or I’ll refuse you Communion. It sounds so fiendishly evil, and yet, we know priests who practice these very things. And I tell you this… it is not Catholic. No good Catholic priest will ever use the Sacraments as blackmail against the faithful. It is unthinkable that a Catholic priest would ever refuse absolution or communion to a Catholic who comes to him for those sacraments, unless of course he is a public or obstinate sinner with regards to something very serious.
So we come back to the question, how can we know when a priest is really a wolf in disguise. And Our Lord’s answer again, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Our Lord takes great pains to point out a very simple way for us to know when we, as sheep, are being fleeced. Take a close look at the priest. We all look like priests, we all have cassocks on and vestments, and say Mass the same way. Oh yes, we are all dressed up as “sheep”, and we make sheep-like noises. But take a look at the fruits of the priest. And then you’ll see some very different results. Because a good tree cannot yield bad fruit. And a bad tree cannot yield good fruit. Look at the fruits. Look at his conduct, his deeds, and his words. It’s really very simple. If his conduct or his deeds or his words are not according to what you know to be morally and doctrinally good, then beware this man.
Take Benedict XVI for example. Sure, he dresses up to the knives with all the beautiful traditional regalia that Popes before him used to wear. But listen to his words. Listen to how he tells you that false religions contain the means of salvation, that there IS after all salvation outside the Catholic Church. And immediately you know. Beware this man.
St. Paul tells us in his epistle to the Galatians (1:8) “But though we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” In other words, no matter how fine a man speaks to you of the things of God, if he doesn’t speak the truth about God, then run from him. For he is no prophet. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you must beware this man.
If in doubt, look at the fruits. It is a sure-fire test that the person who speaks to you about God is truly OF God, whose purpose is to help you in your journey to heaven, or whether he is the enemy, ready to wreak havoc on your soul and drag you down to the fires of hell. May Our Lady Seat of Wisdom help us to discern between the wolves and the true shepherds of the flock, so that we may find our way to her side and the right hand of God.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.