Gospel and Homily Transcript
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 thornbushes, 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
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”
Are the fruits of the Spirit in your life? – Transcript
What’s the test for real spiritual growth? How do we determine who is living in God’s grace and who is not? How do we determine who is a false prophet or who is a true prophet?
Jesus addresses those questions in today’s gospel and the rock-bottom criteria that he gives is deceptively simple: “By their fruits you will know them.” He uses that analogy from nature; good trees bear good, fruit bad trees bear bad fruit. What does that mean in the concrete? As St. Paul was reflecting on this, he named in his letter to the Galatians chapter 5, nine different fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. St. Thomas Aquinas, in commenting on this passage, added another three fruits of the spirit: chastity, modesty, generosity.
Whether we go with the nine fruits as St. Paul lays it out in the letter to the Galatians or the twelve as it’s laid out by St. Thomas Aquinas, these virtues—the fruits of the Spirit—are what Jesus points to as signs for discernment, as to whether we are growing in grace. As we look out and we try to make judgments like: Do I trust this teacher? Do I follow this teacher or not? We look to the fruits of their lives because it’s not so much what a person says, it’s what they do and what is it that they bring about in their lives? Are they fostering in themselves and in others the fruits of the spirit?
If they are then Jesus says you can trust them because the devil cannot produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, chastity, modesty, generosity. The devil can’t do that. Can the devil perform miracles? Yes. Can the devil levitate people? Yes. Can the devil give us knowledge of future events or past events? Yes. The devil can do all of those kinds of things, but what he can’t do and what he can’t produce in a person’s life are these fruits of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, “What’s the test for spiritual growth? What’s the rock-bottom criteria for determining who is living a holy life and who is not? Look to the fruits of the Spirit. If those fruits are in evidence, you can trust that teaching. If those fruits are not in evidence, don’t trust it. No matter who it is.
St. Paul also, in his letter to the Galatians, names fruits of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like that. If those are in evidence in our life, if those are in evidence in others lives, than it doesn’t matter what they say or what we say because somehow we’re not in union with the Holy Spirit. These are the marks of the evil one. These are the marks that we’re growing in the wrong direction.
The question that we need to look at first and foremost within our own lives before we look out at others is what’s growing in my heart? Am I growing in the fruits of the Spirit or am I growing in the fruits of the flesh? If what’s primarily in evidence in our lives—sexual impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, rivalries, dissensions, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like—we’re headed in the wrong direction. Jesus says again in Matthew’s gospel chapter 7 verse 21, “Not everyone who cries out to me, ‘Lord! Lord! will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but those who do the work of my heavenly Father.”
Yes we need to pray but prayer is not enough if it’s not taking root. Prayer that isn’t active in the daily actions of our lives is like a person who’s sowing seed and then goes out and rips the seeds away and throws the plant away as soon as it begins to sprout. A prayer needs to be followed with the daily actions of our lives. What’s growing in our garden? What’s growing in our soul? Let’s pray that we might water those gifts of the Spirit. Amen? Amen.