Wednesday June 25, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:15-20)
Our Lord, in teaching us in the Gospel reading how to tell who is true and who is false, makes very clear to us that the manner of doing this is to look at the fruit that a person is bearing. He tells us that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit and a good tree cannot bear bad fruit. And so when we look upon the fruit that people bear, one of the things, of course, that we need to be careful of is that if they are going to be false prophets they are going to, in some appearance at least, look like a prophet, which means that there will be an appearance of fruit that looks reasonable. So we need to be very cautious because as a tree begins to go bad it still bears fruit that looks pretty good and it just tends to get worse with time. One needs to be very cautious and one needs to be deep in prayer in order to discern what is correct and what is not.
Where is one being led astray and where is the truth being told? Is someone willing to stand with Jesus Christ? Or are they willing only in private to be known as a disciple of the Lord, but they are not really willing to be so in public? Are they willing to suffer for their faith? Or do they just simply spout off pious words, but when it comes to actually putting anything into action they do not have anything to do with living their faith? Are we living a worldly life as opposed to living a life of faith? All these different things are points that we can look at to be able to ask, number one, “Is somebody else a false prophet?” and, number two, we can ask ourselves, “Am I being a false prophet?” because that is a critical point for us as well. If we want to be true followers of Christ, it has to be in everything.
Considering the society we live in, it is very easy to be worldly. It is easy to say, “I want to be a follower of Jesus, but…” We cannot do that. It is either-or; it is not both-and. Our society tries to make it a both-and proposition. “Have one foot in both camps and it will be okay. It is all right to be able to be worldly and to be materialistic and to focus on yourself. Just go to church on Sunday, that’s good enough. You’re being a good Catholic doing that. If you go to confession twice a year what’s the problem?” That is being a false prophet. It is being a minimal Catholic – nominal, even, sometimes at best. The Lord is not looking for people who are lukewarm. He told us if that is the case we will be spewed from His mouth. So if you are going to be cold or lukewarm, you are headed the wrong direction. He said, “Be hot or cold.” Do not be lukewarm; you cannot be walking in both camps. And if we are going to be cold, well, there is a hot place where we can be warmed up for eternity. We need to be on fire with love for Christ. That is the only option.
The only way to do that is to live the Faith. When we look at what happened in the first reading, God made promises to Abraham that he did not know how they would be able to be fulfilled. But he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, we are told. The Lord has made promises to us and we need to live them. We do not see them happening right now, and the reason is because God is allowing evil to run its course. And part of the reason why that is happening is precisely to test our faith. It has been way too easy to be a Catholic for a long time. Now for the first time in the history of our country we really will have an opportunity to suffer for our faith. Praise God! But are we willing to do it?
It is not a question now of being a false prophet or a true prophet; it is a question of being a true Catholic or a false Catholic. This is the opportunity that we have. It is being laid out before us and we are being asked to live the Faith when it is not being upheld, when we do not see that it is politically correct or socially acceptable, when we can see that it is rejected and trounced upon by the media and even by many within the Church who want to call themselves Catholic leaders. We have an opportunity to stand with Jesus Christ, and in order to do that we cannot hide the lamp under a bushel basket. If we are going to be a fruit tree, we have to be out in the sun and we have to be bearing good fruit; otherwise, we are going to be cut down and thrown into the fire, Our Lord told us.
So it is not about merely testing someone else – it is about the self. We need to ask ourselves, “How serious am I about my faith in Jesus Christ? Am I willing to live that faith and believe in the promises of Jesus Christ and everything about the Person of Christ even when I cannot see the fruit, even when I cannot see how this can be?” Will we believe and have that faith credited to us as righteousness? That is what Our Lord is giving us an opportunity to do right now, to be there like Abraham and to stay with the sacrifice all the way to the end. It is very dark right now in what is happening in this world, and it is going to get a little bit darker yet. Are we going to stay with it even when the birds of prey swoop down to try to take away what we have, even when things become terrifying (because they will)? Are we willing to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and to remain with Him in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of the difficulty? Are we willing to suffer for our faith and to be known as true Catholics and to be out where we will be able to receive the sun – that is, the light from the Son of God – so that we will be able to bear good fruit, fruit that will last, as we have been commanded to do?
That is the opportunity that is being offered to each one of us, and there is only one way that it is going to be done – not by our own deciding that this is how we are going to do it, because we know better than that. The only way is by living a life of faith in the Son of God, and that faith will be credited to us as righteousness.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.