Wednesday, 22 Jun – Testing The Fruit, Not The Message

22 Jun – Memorial for St. Paulinus of Nola, bishop; Memorial for St. John Fisher, Bishop & St. Thomas More, Martyrs

Paulinus (c.354–431) was a friend of St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicetas of Remesiana, and was mentioned for his holiness by at least six of his contemporary saints.

He was a distinguished lawyer who held several public offices in the Empire, then retired from public ministry with his wife, Therasia, first to Bordeaux, where they were baptised, and then to Therasia’s estate in Spain. After the death of their only son at the age of only a few weeks, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives devoted to God. They gave away most of their estates and dedicated themselves to increasing their holiness.

Paulinus became a priest and with Therasia, moved to Nola and gave away the rest of their property. They dedicated themselves to helping the poor. Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola by popular demand. He governed the diocese for more than 21 years while living in his own home as a monk and continuing to aid the poor. His writings contain one of the earliest examples of a Christian wedding song.

– Patron Saint Index

John Fisher (1469–1535) studied theology at Cambridge University, receiving degrees in 1487 and 1491. He was parish priest in Northallerton, England from 1491–1494. He gained a reputation for his teaching abilities. He was proctor of Cambridge University. He was confessor to Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII, in 1497. He was ordained Bishop of Rochester, England in 1504; he worked to raise the standard of preaching in his see. He became chancellor of Cambridge. He was tutor of the young King Henry VIII. He was an excellent speaker and writer.

When in 1527 he was asked to study the problem of Henry’s marriage, he became the target of Henry’s wrath by defending the validity of the marriage and rejecting Henry’s claim to be head of the Church in England. He was imprisoned in 1534 for his opposition, and he spent 14 months in prison without trial. While in prison, he was created cardinal in 1535 by Pope Paul III. He was martyred for his faith.

– Patron Saint Index

Thomas More (1478–1535) studied at London and Oxford, England. He was a page for the Archbishop of Canterbury. He was a lawyer. Twice married, and a widower, he was the father of one son and three daughters, and a devoted family man. He was a writer, most famously of the novel which coined the word ‘utopia’. It was translated with the works of Lucian.

He was known during his own day for his scholarship and the depth of his knowledge. He was a friend to King Henry VIII, and Lord Chancellor of England from 1529–1532, a position of political power second only to the king.

He fought any form of heresy, especially the incursion of Protestantism into England. He opposed the king on the matter of royal divorce, and refused to swear the Oath of Supremacy which declared the king the head of the Church in England. He resigned the Chancellorship, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was martyred for his refusal to bend his religious beliefs to the king’s political needs.

– Patron Saint Index

Genesis 15:1-12.17-18

It happened that the word of the Lord was spoken to Abram in a vision, ‘Have no fear, Abram, I am your shield; your reward will be very great.’

‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘what do you intend to give me? I go childless…’ Then Abram said, ‘See, you have given me no descendants; some man of my household will be my heir.’ And then this word of the Lord was spoken to him, ‘He shall not be your heir; your heir shall be of your own flesh and blood.’ Then taking him outside he said, ‘Look up to heaven and count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants’ he told him. Abram put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.

‘I am the Lord’ he said to him ‘who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldaeans to make you heir to this land.’ ‘My Lord,’ Abram replied ‘how am I to know that I shall inherit it?’ He said to him, ‘Get me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove and a young pigeon.’ He brought him all these, cut them in half and put half on one side and half facing it on the other; but the birds he did not cut in half. Birds of prey came down on the carcases but Abram drove them off.

Now as the sun was setting Abram fell into a deep sleep, and terror seized him. When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, there appeared a smoking furnace and a firebrand that went between the halves. That day the Lord made a Covenant with Abram in these terms:

‘To your descendants I give this land,
from the wadi of Egypt to the Great River,
the river Euphrates.’

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.’

You will be able to tell them by their fruits

Having not gone to church for more than a year now, I find myself in need of some spiritual sustenance. Friends have invited me to attend services at their Christian churches and I have attended some of these. Some services I’ve attended bear strong resemblance to some of our Catholic charismatic services. Some preachers I’ve heard bear messages of hellfire and brimstone for those who are greedy and adulterous. Some even predict the future and for some reason, the future always seems bleak.

Being the recipient of so many different kinds of messages, it can be hard to tell which message to believe and which not to. One approach would be to go through all these different messages and to pick out which are in line with the teachings of the apostles and which are not. I think throughout the history of the Catholic Church, people did this in determining which teachings were from God and which were not.

Another approach is to adopt the ‘wait-and-see’ method, which is to wait and see whether such predictions come true or not. This is another approach that people of the Church uses to test predictions, but is ultimately not very effective.
In today’s gospel reading, Jesus offers a simpler solution. Look not at the message, but on the fruits that they bear. If they produce good fruits, then the source is likely to be good. If they produce bad fruits, well then you can be quite sure that the source is not from God. So a message from a prophet may sound very true, but pay no attention to the message until you can see that the fruits they produce are indeed good.

A final note is that Jesus often spoke of wolves disguised as sheep coming to the people. This means that the wolves are real and present within the Church itself. It is easy to say, “This person telling me this is not Catholic, so what he is saying is not true.” But when the person speaking to us is Catholic, perhaps even ordained, are we able to sift out the truth from the non-truths? Have you put into practice Jesus’ method to discern the truth from all the other messages?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Daniel Tay)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern the truth from the fruits rather than the message of prophets.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks to the Lord for teaching us who to follow and listen to.

Upcoming Readings:
Thu, 23 Jun – Genesis 16:1-12.15-16; Matthew 7:21-29
Thu, 23 Jun – Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Peter:8-12; Luke 1:5-17; Solemnity of the Nativity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (Vigil Mass)
Fri, 24 Jun – Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts of the Apostles 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66;80; Solmenity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (Mass of the Day)
Sat, 25 Jun – Genesis 18:1-5; Matthew 8:5-17; World Refugee Day
Sun, 26 Jun – Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17; Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi)

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