INTRODUCTION: There are two different types of “root systems” that nourish the moral and spiritual lives of Catholics and many Christians. One root system feeds our fear of God and of eternal damnation. If we think that the bad, immoral things we experience in this world and the hatred that fuels its existence is bad enough, most of us do not want to spend an eternity experiencing these evils. We turn to God out of fear of hell. If this “root system” works for you in terms of keeping you on the straight and narrow path, then by all means fear eternal damnation and hell. That is a wise decision. This root system is working! For others, their root system provides the nourishment of love and a positive orientation toward God and all He has created. Through the beauty of life, the love that is experienced and the love that God has for us, motivates them to love God in return and our neighbor as ourselves. The desire for heaven is this grace placed in our hearts by God to be drawn to love, not hatred, beauty, not ugliness, respect, not contempt, reconciliation and not revenge, peace not war, unity and not division. The root system that nourishes us with God’s love helps us to produce good fruit in our lives as Christians. However, if our root system is diseased, we do not produce good fruit in our spiritual and moral lives as Catholics and there are consequences for us as God judges our behavior for good or ill. And sometimes we rely on false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing to lead us into perdition because they have great personalities or they give to us what we want to hear and do rather than what God wants us to hear and do.
Main point: In the Church today, Jesus is the Good Shepherd who never leads His people astray for He is to be trusted above all.
1. Those Catholics and other Christians who do not heed Jesus call to repent “now” may find themselves in the same plight as the tree that does not produce good fruit.
A. Many bishops and priests and anyone in a position of religious authority like a catechist, parents or grandparents can wittingly or unwittingly be a wolf in sheep’s clothing when we lead people astray because we don’t want to give them the hard truths. We don’t want them to leave the Church if we tell them that fornicators and adulterers will not enter the kingdom of God; that those who do not practice the corporal and spiritual works of charity will be condemned, such as welcoming the immigrant, feeding the hungry, burying the dead and I could go on. Sometimes we want to tell people that it is okay to practice artificial birth control, have sex outside of marriage, to enter civil unions, heterosexual or homosexual and I could go on. But then there are truly the malicious and perverted out there that want to steal our Catholic Faith and pervert it into something unrecognizable. We've seen tons of stories in the news recently that show how many wolves in sheep's clothing there are in the clergy and laity. It illustrates all the more, how much we need the truth of Jesus in our spiritual combat or warfare against the devil and his minions who tempt and corrupt even those called to teach, rule and sanctify.
B. But the good thing about our Catholic faith is that it does not depend on any one person to hand on the faith as though no one else can find out what the Church teaches. Yes, there are Catholics who like to have their ears tickled and their sins turned into virtue by charismatic bishops, priests and others. But most of us can use our common sense and look up what the Church actually teaches because it is out in the open for all to find. It doesn’t belong just to the pope or bishops but to all the baptized. Clericalism is a disease where personality driven clergy think they can offer their own answers, their own ways of celebrating Mass and praying and the laity need to swallow it hook, line and sinker. But you don’t, I don’t. No one needs too. If you have questions look it up.
2. Just as we must use common sense as it concerns our physical health and the consequences of not taking care of it properly especially by avoiding quacks, so too we must use common sense concerning the ramifications of poor or non existent spiritual and moral health and not allowing quacks to guide us whom we follow blindly.
A. We take for granted the disastrous things that can happen to us if we don’t follow common sense. If I drive my car into a tree at 70 miles an hour, I’m going to get killed. If I jump into a pool and I don’t know how to swim, I will drown. If I put a plastic bag over my head, I am going to suffocate. We don’t do these things.
B. When it comes to our eternal salvation, however, we seem to think that we are impervious to the possible of losing it. Jesus makes it clear in today’s Gospel the refusal to turn around one’s heart and life is to refuse to listen to God, to refuse the invitation to know God. Given the belief of an afterlife, a truth that Jesus taught unambiguously, the absence of God is especially stark. Even the threat of death cannot compare with the emptiness of being forever without God. But there is hope. What we must do is what the Gradual of today’s Mass teaches us from Psalm 23, we must fear God out of love for God and come to Him to be enlightened so that our faces will not be confounded. And as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, we must do the will of His Father if we are to enter into the Kingdom of heaven!
Conclusion: In this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we meet Divine Truth, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Listen to Him and you will produce good fruit, a life pleasing to God now and in eternity.