“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them” (Mt 7:15-16).
So as not be taken in by false prophets within in our Church and society, and most importantly, so as not to be wolves in sheep’s clothing ourselves, we need to know the Shepherd. We need to know, as St Irenaeus (whose feast we celebrate tomorrow) described: Jesus, “who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself” (p. 526 Against Heresies, Book V, Introduction). Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, who entered and embraced our fallen and wounded condition to become fully human while remaining fully divine, came to shine a light on that which causes division and disunity. Jesus came to reveal those sinful acts which estrange us from God and one another. Jesus came to show us the value of our unique dignity as human beings, the wonder of God’s creation that we are, and empower us so as to restore our relationship with God and one another.
How can we know Jesus?
One way is that we can begin by following the lead of Pope Francis who has been encouraging us to read and prayerfully reflect on the Gospels each day.
May we resist the temptation to just read the Gospel with the sole intent to finish it and move on to something else, so as to just complete one more task. Instead may we read slowly, reflectively, spending time with Jesus by mediating on a word or phrase from the Gospel that peaks our attention. We may receive an insight, an intuition, a confirmation, a sense of excitement, or a question as we are reading. May we resist the temptation to just blow off what arises and instead pay attention, and follow where Jesus is leading us. We can also place ourselves in the scene as if we are watching a movie. In this way, allowing our senses to come alive and again pay attention to what arises.
We can then meditate for a time on that word, phrase, insight or other experience that has arisen, taking time at different moments during the day to return and ponder. Through a daily commitment of praying with the Gospels, meditating upon them, allowing Jesus to speak to us, we will not only know about Jesus, but come to encounter and know him and his voice as his disciples did. We will also see the fruit that Jesus bears and encourages us to bear through our thoughts, words, and actions.
Another gift of encountering Jesus in the Gospels is that we will naturally be drawn to examine our conscience as we read and ponder the life and teachings of Jesus. As we are able to see those fruits of selfishness, greed, judgment, gluttony, lust, pride, indifference, sloth, envy, wrath, or any others, seek God’s forgiveness and can begin to prune those branches within us that lead to such fruits. This will leave more room for the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, chastity, goodness, generosity and self-control, to grow and mature in our life.
As we come to know Jesus and his voice, we will begin to recognize, through the fruits they bear, those false prophets who seek to lead us astray, and so be better be able to resist their temptations as well as temptations within. We will better know the truth of who we are and are created to be. More importantly, we will no longer lead others astray, but as we bear the fruits of the Spirit we will lead others through word and deed to the Shepherd.
Photo: Picture of the Bible I received for my confirmation.
Mass readings for Wednesday, June 27, 2018: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062718.cfm