Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost—11 July A.D. 2010

“By their fruits you will know them”[1]


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

    “Whom are we to trust?”  Today’s Gospel answers a fundamental question, at least as relevant today as it was in the time of Christ:  “Whom are we to trust?”  “Whom shall we follow?”  “With whom do we associate, socially, and in business or civic affairs?” “How do we know the sheep from the wolves, the shepherds from the hirelings ... how do we distinguish the path to paradise from the path to perdition.?”  Our Lord gives us the metaphor of knowing a tree by its fruit.  It is impossible, or at least impractical, for us to enter into the tree itself in order to know anything about it—but the fruit is easily accessible.  Likewise, while we may not be able to enter into the minds of men and women, we are able to draw some conclusions about them by their “fruits”; which is to say, by the way they live their lives.

    Before saying any more, let me point out that we must apply the same standard to ourselves if we are to make progress in our spiritual life with God.  We have to look into our own lives in order to know the condition of our own souls—by our own fruits we will know ourselves.

    In some of the sects of modern Christianity, they make the mistake of viewing material prosperity as a sign of God’s favor.  The Calvinist, quite erroneously, reasons that if I wear fine clothes, drive a fast car, and associate with the ‘best’ people, it is a sign of God’s favor—they judge my money, my clothes, my car, and my associates as my “fruits” and conclude that I am one of God’s favorites.  They utterly fail to recognize that God’s ultimate favorite was born into an economically poor home in a backwater country, at the edge of an Empire where even the ultra-rich had relatively little by modern standards.  They utterly fail to recognize that God’s ultimate Favorite spent most of His adult life wandering the harsh terrain of Palestine—that “the Son of man had not even a place to lay His head.”[2]  They utterly fail to recognize that God’s ultimate Favorite was condemned by the “best people” to be stripped of His garments and to die the death of a criminal on the Cross.  No money, no car, no clothes, and only two thieves for immediate neighbors.  The fruits by which we know the good people in this life (and by which we would hope to know ourselves) are simply not the fruits of material success.

So, then, what kind of fruits are we looking for?

    Certainly, one might say that we are looking for the fruit of keeping the Commandments.  No question about it—society cannot work if people feel free to beat, kill, steal, cheat, and lie to one another—and certainly the people with whom we want to associate will do none of these things either—À fortiori, the people to whom we look for leadership!  This is a minimum—there cannot be a legitimate government that does not respect life, property, or any of the other rights with which people are endowed by their Creator.  Nor can you do business with people who do not observe the ethical standards of the Commandments.

    But, perhaps, our Lord had something more in mind.  At least in general terms, the Commandments were known even by the Gentiles, without the explicit revelation given to the Jews from God by Moses as he descended the slope of Mount Sinai.  Keeping the Commandments is good, even necessary, but there is something more to salvation—Jesus Christ came to bring something more than the Gentiles or even the Jews of His time could have ever possessed, or even imagined.

    Jesus Christ came to bring grace.  That is to say that Jesus came to make men and women more than merely acceptable citizens of the world in which they lived.  The Gentile who kept the Commandments, and  the Jew who followed the entire Law of Moses, were simply that—they were “acceptable citizens.”  The Christian must be more than these “acceptable citizens”;  his fruits more than the mere keeping of the Commandments;  the Christian must be a son or daughter of God!

    Saint John tells us that Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not.  But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God—to them that believe in his name.  Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us ... full of grace and truth....  And of his fullness we all have received, and grace for grace.  For the law was given by Moses;  grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.[3]

    “Well, okay, Father,” you might say, “but the problem still remains—the question is yet unanswered—how do we recognize this “grace and truth” of which Saint John wrote?”

    The answer to that, I believe, lies in discerning the activity of the Holy Ghost.  The keeping of the Commandments is a natural thing, which even the pagans could discern before the time of Christ, or even before Moses.  The supernatural virtues, and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Ghost come from above.

    Knowledge, trust, and love are natural virtues, that relate us to other people—but only with the power of the Holy Ghost do knowledge, trust, and love become supernatural virtues—faith , hope, and charity, by which we relate to God, and to the other sons and daughters of God.

    Wisdom, understanding, knowledge, fortitude, counsel, piety, and fear of the Lord can be natural gifts—we read about most of them, two or three at a time in the verses of the Old Testament.[4]  But they come together only in the book of Isaias, in a passage that clearly relates to the expected Messias of the Jewish people:

    And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness.  And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord.[5]

    These gifts, that can be natural gifts, come together and become supernatural in their outlook, only in those “upon whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest.”

    There is one more set of attributes, the characteristics of the sons and daughters of God, that we learned years ago, when we prepared  to receive the Holy Ghost in the Sacrament of Confirmation.  We have them from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.  But first, in order to appreciate the “Fruits of the Holy Ghost,”  Saint Paul describes their contraries, the “works of the flesh”:

    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like.[6]

    Curious, isn’t it, how some of these “works of the flesh” are precisely what misguided modern people might judge to be “good fruit”?  Certainly, the luxury, and the envy, and the revelling!

    But finally, Saint Paul reveals precisely what our Lord meant by the “good fruits,” by which we can know ourselves, and those with whom we choose to associate—the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

    The fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.[7] Against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.[8]

    “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”  The supernatural gifts come only to those “upon whom the Spirit of the Lord shall rest.”  The “good fruit of today’s Gospel is being “Christ-like.”  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”


[1]   Gospel: Matthew vii: 15-21

[5]   Isaias xi: 2-3

[6]   Galatians v: 18-20

[7]   lon·ga·nim·i·ty  (lngg-nm-t, lông-)  n. Calmness in the face of suffering and adversity; forbearance.

[8]   Galatians v: 22-25



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