2Kgs 22:8-13;23:1-3; Ps119:33-37,40; Mt 7:15-20
“I long for your precepts.”
By our very nature we long for the word of the LORD. From our conception within the womb we long for his precepts. Without the knowledge of his ways we are lost and insecure. Like King David in today’s psalm, we, too, plead with the LORD, “Teach me the way of your decrees.” Many in our day resist what they perceive as direction from the outside. Yet, if we are true to our nature, if we are honest, we cannot find our own way. The revelation of God is not from the outside; God’s word is spoken within us, and his truth reveals the truth of who we are. We are created beings; we are not self-made men. We are contingent beings; we are not the source of our own life. We are dependant beings, and we absolutely need the LORD. We need to have the LORD instruct us in the way of his statutes, that we may exactly observe them. If the LORD teaches us his decrees, then we have discernment of heart. With this wisdom we can deal with all the difficulties and challenges we encounter in life. When the LORD leads us in the paths of his commands, then we delight and do not despair. Indeed, it is the grace of God that inclines our hearts to his decrees and not to self-assertion and personal gain. Only then will we be able to love God and love our neighbor faithfully. We humbly ask that the LORD turn our eyes away from seeing what is vain. We need divine help to become those who give life by pouring ourselves out in loving service. Only when our deepest longing becomes our conscious will, only then will we long for his precepts and learn to live in justice and truth. Such a heart felt desire for God’s ways ignited the hearts of those who found the book of the covenant hidden in the temple. Such a bold and singular desire for God’s will is the only way to be rooted in the word of the LORD and to bear good fruit. Once we have found what is lost and hidden in our tradition will we be found secure in the mystery of God’s call to holiness. Indeed, it is the mysteries of this liturgy that secure and strengthen our true identity hidden with Christ in God.
For many reasons the law of the LORD had been ignored and lost from among his chosen people. In today’s first reading we hear about the surprise discovery of the book of the law in the temple of the LORD. When the high priest, Hilkiah, gave this book to King, and read it aloud for his instruction, the King was quick to repent and respond to the law of the LORD. He tore his garments and humbled himself before the LORD. After his personal repentance, he summoned the priests, prophets and people to a public reading of the decrees of the LORD. “He had the entire contents of the book of the covenant that had been found in the temple of the LORD, read out to them.” Sometimes we lose our way and we need to hear the instructions of the LORD to stir our hearts to repentance and reform. This is why we proclaim the word of the LORD in every liturgy, so that we have no excuse to continue in our selfish and destructive ways. However, we do not always receive the wisdom from ages past with an open and willing heart. Sometimes we resist and rebel against the LORD’s commands. We deceive ourselves into thinking that the LORD’s ways are not compassionate, that God just doesn’t understand the needs of our time. We think that the church is out of touch, and our traditions are irrelevant. At times like this we gladly take the comfort that the Word seems to offer, but reject any challenge that comes from the mouth of God. We think we know what is best and ignore the wisdom of God. We fool ourselves into thinking that the law of the LORD is too harsh and not sensitive to our real situation. At times like these the LORD surprises us, and we discover that which seems hidden and lost in the very temple of our liturgy. At times like these the LORD summons us to revive the terms of the covenant written so long ago for our instruction. The LORD never abandons us, even when we hide from his wisdom. Again and again, we are called into the light of truth and taste that the LORD is good. Today, we pray for the ordained among us to be bold and faithful in announcing the truth we have so long resisted and yet so deeply need.
Our Divine Teacher, the Lord Jesus, instructs us in today’s gospel about how to discern true prophets from false prophets. We need this kind of wisdom in order to know how to listen deeply and discern the truth that will set us free. The Lord Jesus warns us to beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but underneath are ravenous wolves. Indeed such teachers have devoured the sheep whose clothing they wear. These ravenous wolves hide behind the mask of those who are mislead by their teaching. They appeal to the majority to bolster their public image, “Look at all those who have believed in my teaching!” They try to deceive us by pointing out all who have affirmed their teaching. Just because the majority believes something, does not make it true. The Lord Jesus does not want us to get caught up in the noise of the crowd. He wants us to get beyond political controversy and inform our conscience so that we can make moral decisions. It is the truth of natural law and revealed law that must guide our decisions and actions in the world. Indeed we are in the world but not of the world. The lies of our culture have no claim on those who live and move and have their being in Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. The true test of a prophet is the fruits of his life. No one picks grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles. Even so, no one can find good fruit and be nourished from those who are not rooted in the truth. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Only this wisdom will enable us to follow those who will lead us out of our divisions and into the unity and freedom that comes from the truth, from the very mouth of God.