Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost—19 July AD 2009

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“By their fruits....”  “Beware of false teachers, who come to you in the clothing of sheep.”

    This morning's Gospel sounds like it was written for us in the 20ú century.  We certainly seem to have more than our share of false teachers and prophets.  But, of course, it was written in the time of Christ, to warn the infant Church to be on guard about the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (the leaders of the Jews), to warn them about the influence of the Romans, and even to warn them that there would shortly be false Christians who would try to deceive them.

    But there is an enduring character in all of our Lord's teaching.  It seems to address the “human condition,” rather than a few individual people or a few isolated situations.  From this Gospel, we can easily see that our Lord's teachings are for all people, in all places and times.  The Pharisees and Sadducees may have been replaced by rebellious priests and bishops—the Romans may have been replaced by Republicans and Democrats—we may even have a unique institution in the mass media (the TV, the Radio, and the newspapers) —but our Lord's words still stand.

    Individuals within the Church, the government, the media, and other organs of society may do some very good things indeed.  We shouldn't always be cynical—some of them do good more often than harm.  Yet, they do have an enormous potential for doing damage.

    Our Lord is not telling us to be unnecessarily critical—He's not telling us, so to speak, to throw the baby out with the bath water.  He is simply telling us that we need to be alert, and to examine the things done by those in positions of authority or influence.

    Our Lord is not suggesting that we shouldn't listen to what people say.  We should listen to them.  Sometimes evil men talk like evil men.  If they do, there is no point in waiting around for them to do something evil, as they have promised.  For example, if a man with a gun threatens to shoot you, you don't wait around for him to prove that he is serious!

    We should know what the influential people in society are promising (or threatening) to do—whether they be politicians, priests, or whatever.  For citizens to have any meaningful say in government, they have to know the positions held by the major politicians—they can't just vote for a pretty smile, a fancy suit, the best barbecue, or the accent which sounds most like their own.  As much as they are able, they also need to understand the issues: be they moral issues, political, economic, military, social issues, or whatever.

    It is the same with our Faith.  Blind obedience is not a virtue.  Insofar as we are able, we need to understand our Lord's moral and doctrinal teachings.  We need to support those priests, bishops, and political leaders which follow our Lord's teachings—and oppose those who do not.

    Now, it is not always clear where people stand on the important concerns of life.  Sometimes they lie—they say one thing and do another—they make promises they can't keep.  This is where we apply what our Lord says in the Gospel.  A person's actions speak louder than his words.  At least over the long-run, we will see good fruits from the good people in positions of power—and bad fruits from the bad people.

    Of course, finally, we have to ask ourselves what is “good fruit” and what is “bad”?  Our Lord gives us the standard by which that is to be judged.  He says: “He that does the will of My Father in heaven, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  The standard for “good fruit,” then, is doing the will of God.

    And we can know the will of God in public affairs, the same way we know it in private life—by making an examination of conscience.  Only in this case, instead of asking ourselves how well we are keeping the Commandments, or how well we are living in virtue, or how well we are conforming to the natural law—we must ask ourselves these questions in terms of how well society is doing these things under the leader in question.

    It is a mistaken notion to think that society at large can live under any different rules than those which must apply to individual people.  As Saint Paul says: “The wages of sin is death” —and that is true for the country, or for the church, or for a community—just as it is true for you and me.  In fact, serious sin in a society is, in many ways, more serious than serious sin in some of its members—because it has a more widespread and lasting effect.

    All authority comes from God.  And those who exercise authority, yet scorn the will of God, very quickly lose their legitimacy—and ultimately lose their authority.  It is the height of folly to think that the “will of the people,” or the will of a governing elite, can replace the will of God!

    This is a serious obligation for every one of us.  We must make an effort to be informed about what is going on around us—in the Church, in politics, in all aspects of our society—we should try to know what is going on, and what should be going on.  And we should bring whatever influence we have to bear, so that what should be comes closer to what is.

    Our life here on earth, as well as our eternal salvation, depends on making intelligent choices.  We can't always know who the “good guys” are just by what they say.  We also have to pay attention to what they do.

    “By their fruits you will know them.”  And, the only good fruit—the only fruit worth having and keeping -- is to do the will of God—both in private and in public.




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