Wednesday June 22, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18) Gospel (St. Matthew 7:15-20)
In the first reading today, we hear this dialogue between God and Abram, and Abram saying to God, “How am I to know?” God had made promises to Abram; first, that he would have his own heir, and secondly, that he would have this land. And Abram was looking for a way to be able to know how this promise was going to be fulfilled. How did he know? So God made very clear to him how it was going to happen; He made a covenant with him.
In the Gospel reading today, Our Lord also tells us how we are going to know, that is, how we are going to know which people we should associate with, which people we should follow. He tells us that a tree is known by its fruits. So if a tree is bearing good fruit, then that’s the one you want to be with. If it’s not, then you don’t. Now, of course, the difference in this case is that if there is a tree (by analogy) that is not bearing good fruit, while on the natural level that tree is going to be cut down and thrown into the fire, we are talking here about human beings rather than just physical trees. Consequently, if we see someone who is not bearing good fruit, we can pray for them and we can pray for their conversion. But, at the same time, we need to be very careful that we do not follow them.
If someone is not preaching the truth, if someone is not living the truth, then we do not want to be like that. On one level, we can look at it and say, “None of us is perfect. We’re all going to sin and we’re all going to fall short.” True enough, but it is also very evident when someone is trying to live according to the truth and when someone is not. In our society, it is far more convenient to live in opposition to the truth. It is more politically correct, it is more acceptable to those who want to live a worldly life, and it seems on the surface to be a whole lot more fun. If you do not want to live according to the way of Jesus, you are going to have all kinds of friends. So it seems like a pretty easy way to go. It might even seem like the better way to be. Yet, at the same time, because God has written His law in our hearts and on our minds, we know fully well that it is not right. It may be easier and it may be more fun and we may even have people who tell us that the things we are doing wrong are in fact good because we are being just like them. But then we have only to look at our own lives and we will see that we are not bearing good fruit when we are like that.
Most of us can probably look back to some point in our life where it is going to be pretty self-evident that we were not living the right way. Look at the fruit that was borne. Look at the people you were with. Look at the things you were doing. Look at what came from it and ask yourself, “Was there good fruit from that time in my life? Was I doing what was right?” You will know by the fruit that you bore.
That is the thing we have to look at. We have to look for a tree that is bearing good fruit. On a practical level, that means the friends we should be with and associate with are people who are good, who are trying to live according to the truth, who are trying to do what is right. It means that the voices we are going to listen to and follow need to be preaching the truth – not saying what we want to hear, not doing what Saint Paul warns us of, that is, be careful of preachers who tickle your ears, because there are plenty of them out there. Turn on the TV and you will find all kinds of them. They will tell you anything you want to hear as long as you give them lots of money. We need to hear the truth. We are made for the truth, and the truth will set us free. It is just that simple. The truth is Jesus Christ. Therefore, if we are living according to the truth, we will bear good fruit. We might not be well liked. We might even be rejected, but the fruit of our lives is going to be good and it will also be very evident.
So that is what we all need to look at: first of all, the question of whether we are bearing good fruit; secondly, the question of whether the people we are associating with are bearing good fruit; and thirdly, whether the voices we are listening to and following are speaking the truth, and whether the lives of those individuals are bearing good fruit. That is what the whole situation comes down to for us, because if we are not bearing good fruit and we are associating with those who are not bearing good fruit, we are going to be cut down and thrown into the fire. That is not a very happy idea. If we want to be able to spend eternity with God, it does not matter if we are popular, it does not matter what people think of us. All that matters is that we are living the truth and bearing good fruit for Jesus Christ.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.