12 December, Thursday – Their Fruit

Dec 14 – Memorial for St. John of the Cross, priest, religious, doctor of the Church

John (1675–1726) was born in poverty. He cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina. He became a lay Carmelite brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived stricter than their Rule. He studied at Salamanca. He was ordained a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25.

He was persuaded by St. Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced (or barefoot) reform within the Carmelite Order, and took on the name John of the Cross. He was a master of novices, and spiritual director and confessor at St. Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not sit well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina. He refused and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, and escaped after nine months.

He was vicar-general of Andalusia. His reforms revitalized the Order. He was a great contemplative and spiritual writer. On Aug 24, 1926, he was proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI.

  • – Patron Saint Index


Isaiah 41:13-20

I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you.’

Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite.’ I will help you – it is the Lord who speaks – the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.

See, I turn you into a threshing-sled, new, with doubled teeth; you shall thresh and crush the mountains, and turn the hills to chaff.

You shall winnow them and the wind will blow them away, the gale will scatter them. But you yourself will rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and needy ask for water, and there is none, their tongue is parched with thirst. I, the Lord, will answer them, I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.

I will make rivers well up on barren heights, and fountains in the midst of valleys; turn the wilderness into a lake, and dry ground into waterspring.

In the wilderness I will put cedar trees, acacias, myrtles, olives. In the desert I will plant juniper, plane tree and cypress side by side; so that men may see and know, may all observe and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.


Matthew 11:11-15

Jesus spoke to the crowds: ‘I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. Since John the Baptist came, up to this present time, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm. Because it was towards John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the Law were leading; and he, if you will believe me, is the Elijah who was to return. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!’


“… and the violent are taking it by force”

The image of ‘violent men’ is a strange one to be associated with the idea of a benevolent God. So often, ‘religious fervor’ is used as a means to justify Man’s end. In our time, the crimes committed against innocent, ordinary people in the name of ‘God’ have become something of a normal occurrence. That’s a sad indictment of our times. How did we arrive at this place?! These days, you can’t step into an airport or a crowded transportation hub without looking behind your back or casing the passengers around you. We live in a world that’s become warped by paranoia and rage, done allegedly in the name of ‘God’. When did anger become our ‘new normal’? How did we let ourselves get this way?

The violence inspired by the kingdom of heaven is not a new thing. From the time of Adam and Eve, Man has twisted God’s word to support his own cause and further his own end. People are not born angry and violent. Somewhere along the line, life events conditioned them to embrace the combative path for their own. God never asked us to wage a physical war with our brothers. Rather through Christ, He came to preach a message of love, acceptance and forgiveness. And John the Baptist paved the way for God’s message of redemption.

In the Book of Matthew, Christ chastises the Pharisees for misleading the people who looked to them for spiritual guidance. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to” (Matt 23:13). That’s always resonated with me. One’s spiritual progress really can be thwarted by men with ill intentions. I have personally experienced the discomfort of being around someone who likes to put forward contentious spiritual arguments, just to further his own agenda. You feel like you’re being mentally accosted. At times like this, when we feel ourselves being challenged, it’s an idea to do a ‘fruit’ test – does he bear good fruit? Will the fruit of his message endure through the ages? Is his fruit borne of love or something else?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit… therefore by their fruits you will know them” – Matthew 7:15-20

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the wisdom to discern good men from those who would do us harm.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our spiritual directors, who through the good fruit of their hearts, pass on Christ’s message of love, repentance and redemption.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *