Wednesday June 26, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:15-20)
In telling us that we will be able to know a tree by its fruit and that a good tree cannot bear rotten fruit nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit, we need to be cautious of one point. That is, we must be careful not to try to compare the fruit that we are producing for the Lord with somebody like a saint, for instance. Otherwise, we could despair and think that we are not doing very much for the Lord when, in fact, we could be doing exactly what the Lord wants. For instance, if you take a parent of a young child who needs to be home with the children taking care of them or going to work to provide for a family and so on, obviously, God is not going to be asking that person to be out doing all kinds of things because the duties of their state in life would require that they would be right there at home being obedient to what God is asking of them. You could look at that and say, "Well, I'm not bearing much fruit," until you look at the children and say, "That is the fruit God is asking you to bear." So just be very cautious on that level.
But the Lord is very clear at the same time: "Be very careful of the false prophets." He tells us they are ravenous wolves in sheep's clothing. So we need to be very cautious that we do not just pull anybody in or listen to what anybody says; but rather, that we make sure who it is we are listening to. There are lots of people out there who try to make themselves look good when, in fact, they are not. We need to be very, very cautious.
And for ourselves, I think we need to learn a lesson from what we see in the first reading. We see the king, Hezekiah, who is informed about the finding of the Book of Deuteronomy. As soon as he hears about it and recognizes that this is truth, that this is a book of the covenant of the law that had been lost - and he understood why things had happened: because their fathers did not follow it - immediately he changed to conform himself to what he knew to be the Will of God. That is the kind of fruit God is looking for.
We can look at ourselves and just ask the simple question: "Do I know what God's Will for me is?" Now we may not know it completely, but the fact is, with most of us, we have a pretty fair idea what it is God is asking of us, and very often we say, "I just don't feel like doing it. I don't know if I really want to do that. I'll do all these other things, but this part I donít really like." So we refuse to do God's Will. We become like wolves in sheep's clothing then because we are saying that we want to do what God wants, we are claiming to follow the Will of God, yet we are rejecting His Will when we know what it is. And it is usually because it is a little inconvenient to us, maybe we would have to suffer a little bit, maybe we would have to get rid of something we really like, or whatever it might be. We do not really want to do God's Will. We are not bearing the kind of fruit God is asking. And we are not being the quality of tree, bearing the quality of fruit that the Lord wants.
That is something each one of us needs to look at. Are we doing God's Will to the fullness of what we know it to be? Are we striving to know God's Will through prayer and in our day to day lives so that we can carry it out? Or do we try to tell God what His Will for us is so that we can be completely at peace in ourselves because we have determined what we think it ought to be rather than allowing Him to show us what it should be? (Which is another practice that many of us probably fall into quite frequently.) Rather than asking Him what His Will is - because we know He is going to ask us to change - we just assume we already know what it is because then we can just continue what we are doing. These are things that we need to realize do not bear good fruit.
The Lord is asking us not only to bear a little bit of fruit; Jesus told His disciples that they are to bear great fruit, and that is what the Lord is asking of each of us - great fruit according to our state in life. Not comparing it to what somebody else in history has done; but rather, comparing it only to what it is that God is asking of you as an individual. And the only way you will know that is in prayer, to go to the Lord and to ask Him what His Will is for you; then, to the best of your ability, to put aside your own will, your own desires, your own ideas, and embrace the Will of God completely so that you will be able to do His Will in your life and bear great fruit.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.