Daily Reflection for June 16, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JUNE 16  •  St. Tycho, Bishop of Amathus in Cyprus

In enumerating the miracles of the Christian Faith we need never forget the countless and great miracles of the changes of heart and dispositions of people truly converted to the Faith. How many are the enraged criminals that this Faith tamed! How many bloodthirsty robbers has the Faith transformed to innocent lambs! How many debauched ones has the Faith turned into chaste ones! How many persecuters has the Faith turned into defenders of the Faith! How many selfish avaricious men has the Faith taught compassion! How many fearful ones has the Faith directed on the road to extreme self-sacrifice! Metropolitan Philaret writes about Russian Prince Vladimir: “A lover of all pleasures; how this was not possible any longer for the pagan Vladimir in Christianity and he became a model of a chaste married life; he dismissed all women and lovers and lived with one, the devout Anna. An evil, vindictive and bloodthirsty fratricide in paganism, Vladimir, in Christianity, was the most compassionate friend of the poor. The poor always had access to him and he distributed both money and food with a generous hand.” More than that: “the sick are unable to come to my palace,” said he and ordered that meat, fish, bread, yeast and honey be carted about the streets. The Gospel words: “Blessed are the merciful” (St. Matthew 5:7), penetrated into the depth of his heart and became his rule of life.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“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. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:15-21)

In the excerpt from His Sermon on the Mount that the Church reads today, the Lord states clearly that false prophets will come “in sheep’s clothing,” but they are actually ravenous wolves. This is echoed by St. Paul when he bid farewell to the faithful in Ephesus: “For I know this, that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch…” (Acts 20:29-31). It is disquieting that both the Lord and St. Paul speak so openly and matter-of-factly about the flock being ravaged. But it is true — the history of the Church is littered with “leaders” who were heretics, charlatans, and plain ol’ crooks. Why? Well, first of all, the demons never give up. They not only try to trip up everyone trying live a Christian life, but they know the job is easier if they can cause a leader to fall.

We like to think that, in the Church, everyone has a good and pure heart. It is good to think that. But it is also unrealistic. When I went to seminary back in the 1970s, the school was coming out of a turbulent time when many of the students were more interested in dodging the draft than studying theology, much less get ordained. We know that schisms and feuds between churches and clergy are alive and well, if not commonplace. So in His words, the Lord warns us to test the fruits of our Church leaders. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If there is constant turmoil, if there are questionable financial dealings, if everyone begins to wonder about a pastor’s relationship with someone not his wife, any number of things, we need to guard ourselves and the Church. But He also says a good tree bears good fruit. Preaching, teaching, serving, guiding, etc., building a community that has a good spirit, is good fruit indeed.

But the troubling little caveat are His final words today: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” People, both the flock and their shepherds, can be deceived. We can convince ourselves that someone is producing “bad fruit” when it really is just difficult fruit or fruit that doesn’t meet my taste. We can also convince ourselves that someone is producing “good fruit,” when it is just fruit that I like, or is easy, or is produced by someone for whom I have blinders. Discernment in our own life is difficult; that is why the Church gives us pastors and confessors. But discernment in the life of the Church, while also difficult, is vital and necessary and we all have a part in it. When we call, “Lord, Lord,” it had truly better be the Lord, and not some wolf in sheep’s clothing. We find out it is truly Him when His will is proclaimed and done in our midst. Pray for your pastors and confessors — they are assailed by evil spirits every single day.


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