Becoming and True Prophet, 7th Sunday after Pentecost (EF), July 23, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Our Lady of Peace Parish, Brooklyn,
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Extraordinary Form
July 23, 2017
Rom 6:19-23, Mt 7:15-21

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The text that guided today’s homily was: 

Today in the Gospel, Jesus speaks to us of false prophets, about whom he wants us to be on guard. He says this, first and obviously, to warn us about the frauds we’ll meet, but I think we can apply his words easily to ourselves, so that we, who are called by our Baptism and strengthened by Confirmation to share in Jesus’ prophetic work, might always be “true prophets” drawing others to Christ, passing on his words faithfully, rather than end up emulating those of which he alerts us in every age. That’s why it’s particularly important for us to pay attention to the Word of God, even if we’re in a Church without air-conditioning on a hot and humid summer day!

Jesus says that false prophets are ravenous wolves hiding under sheep’s clothing. In other words, they appear to be a good sheep of the Good Shepherd, they seem to be devout, they regularly call upon him “Lord, Lord” with their lips, but they do not do the will of his Father in heaven in their body language. They bear bad fruit because their “tree” is corrupted, because they’re no longer attached to Christ the vine. St. Paul in today’s first reading points to the type of bad fruit and tree when he describes the way Christians in Rome used to live before thy found Christ and were baptized, when they were slaves to sin and “presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness.” He would develop these thoughts in his parallel Epistle to the Galatians when describes the works of the flesh that flow from that type of slavry: “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.” We see these works often in false prophets today. There are Catholics, including clergy and religious, who preach and live a pseudo-gospel of, on the one hand, great laxity that features all types of immorality and impurity, drinking bouts, orgies and the like. They often treat sexual sins as eighth sacraments that need to be celebrated and indulged rather than sins that need to be repented of and confessed. There are also Catholics, including clergy and religious, who preach and live with hatreds, rivalry, outbursts of anger, envy and jealousy, selfishness, dissensions and factions, who are constantly judging not just other people’s actions but their souls, complaining, criticizing, separating. While both groups have a following, they also scandalize and drive many others away. Jesus warns us about them and wants us not to be like them.

This is in contrast to those we might call “true prophets,” those who are sheep and shepherds in sheep’s clothing, who live with integrity, who preach the Gospel by their good fruit and not just by their words, who do not just call upon God and prayer but glorify him in doing his will. St. Paul in today’s first reading says that these are people who “present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” In his parallel Letter to the Galatians, he adds that they bear the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These are strong, not soft, words. Love means they are willing to lay down their lives for friends rather than live for pleasure; joy means that they have Christ’s happiness in them, especially at the conversion of sinners (Lk 15); peace means that they have the peace that he gives and the world can’t take away, which also occasionally involves the sword of rejection even by family members who don’t order their lives to Christ; patience means they bear with others’ faults and their own, never giving up on the Lord’s will to forgive and united them; kindness means unconquerable benevolence even toward those who make themselves enemies and persecutors; generosity means sacrificing to the point of heroism, not just what one has left over but even what one needs; faithfulness means fidelity to Christ and to others, even and especially when it’s hard and everyone else is capitulating; meekness means the strength not to have to retaliate with the world’s fallen means; self-control means the self-mastery so that one does what one ought and by God’s grace follows the Lord’s will in season and out of season.

The outcome of these two types of prophetic living, the false and the true, cannot be clearer. St. Paul in today’s epistle describes that “the end of those things [life according to the flesh] is death” and in his Letter to the Galatians, he says, “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they’re permanently choosing to live outside of it. On the other hand, for true prophets, he says, “the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life,” reiterating, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” One is a path of eternal life, another is of eternal death, everlasting self-separation from the kingdom. What path are we going to choose? And not just choose with our lips — because the choice between life and death is like between eating filet mignon and tree bark — but choose in all our decisions, by doing the Lord’s will over the state’s, or over our own, or over some guru’s, or anyone else’s.

Today is a day in which the Lord is calling us to ask whether we’re truly bearing good fruit and whether our fruit is giving glory to our Father in heaven. It’s a day to ask whether we’re saying one thing and doing another. Are we actually proclaiming Christ by our words and deeds or announcing him with our lips and then living like so many others as “slaves of sin”? The Lord who today calls us to be good trees, to bear good fruit, to seeking prayerfully the will of God and then, in accordance with his grace, do it. He calls us to be “slaves of God” willingly, following the path of sanctification that leads to eternal life, bearing the fruit of the Spirit so that others, when they think of us, see us resemble Christ’s and Mary’s and the saints’ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And if we sense that with regard to this divine summons, our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak, today, at Mass, Jesus seeks to strengthen us. He comes as the Vine to attach us anew to Him as branches, promising us that if we remain in him, and he in us, we will bear fruit that will last into eternity.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

A reading for the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawless ness, so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.