A Reading from the Gospel According to Matthew 7:15-20
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 thorn bushes, 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 andthrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.”
Opening Prayer: Grant, O, Lord, that we may always revere and love your holy name, for you never deprive of your guidance those you set firm on the foundation of your love. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
Encountering Christ: Perhaps we have never needed the warning about false prophets as much as we do today, when the Internet and social media so often presents us with many untruths. We can judge false prophets by the result of their words. If their words result in peace and love, we can believe them. If they result in hate, anger and criticism, we need to receive them with caution.
False prophets have always plagued believers. Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets, and gives us a very concrete and practical guideline for our discernment: Knowing them by their fruits. Our world sometimes can be so confusing, making so many promises of happiness and well-being, yet so full of suffering and loneliness.
Popular messages appeal though they may not be true to the Gospel. Some predict doom and gloom, while others present a more liberal agenda. Genuine prophets teach the authentic way of Christ, but many false teachers in the human story proclaim their own message. We are reminded to be alert and attentive so that we can reflect and discern what is true.
A tree does not go bad overnight. Rather, decay tends to begin from within and it takes time before it becomes evident. Outward appearances may be good but loss of fruitfulness is observed. Or we lose direction, when something small creeps in and begins to take us off course. On the other hand, growth in goodness is evident. We have the potential for good and the Lord desires we develop it. By our fruits others will know us.
A good tree is well minded. It needs the right soil given at the right time, planted in the place for the weather it needs. It needs to be planted neither too near the other trees nor too far away. We grow if we are well tended – in education, in family, in love. We grow when we mind and nourish ourselves with the food and drink that do not ruin the body. Then the fruit is seen and others can enjoy and benefit from our lives. How we mind others in turn has its effect for many years.
If it’s possible to know false prophets by their bad fruit, why do they take in so many people? One possibility is that people choose the “low-hanging bad fruit” over the less accessible good fruit. To discern good fruit from bad fruit, we must know Jesus Christ. We have to put some effort into reading, studying, asking questions–in other words, seeking–and praying. As we draw closer to Christ he gives us ways to discern good fruit from bad fruit, and good trees from bad ones. As we grow in holiness, not only do we more easily recognize good fruit, but by his work within us, we bear good fruit of our own, such as forgiveness, humility, chastity, love, mercy, and self-control.
Closing Prayer: Lord, false prophets abound, and their fruit seems attractive and satisfying. Protect us, and those we love from consuming bad fruit, may your presence be so powerful within us that we cannot help but bear good fruit for your glory.
Today’s Action: Might this passage be inviting us to look again at the talents, and gifts that we have been given and being grateful for them and asking ourselves, how we might be able to use them for the good of others?