Wednesday in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
From Looking to Tasting
Readings: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 7:15-20
There does seem to be a contradiction between what Jesus says to us in the today’s gospel and what he said on Monday. As we may recall, on Monday, we were told not to judge, because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get… Yet, today, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets, clearly implying that we should learn to distinguish between the voices of true and false prophets. Could Jesus be speaking with a forked tongue?
Or is he not rather helping us to refine our understanding of his message? Consider some differences between what he said on Monday and today. There is first a difference in aim. The aim of the judging that Jesus spoke against on Monday is to try to change others, to try to make them conform to what we think they should do. This is quite different from what Jesus wishes us to do today. In learning to distinguish between true and false prophets, we are being taught to recognize which voices to follow and which to reject or to ignore. The focus today is on the path we are to walk.
More importantly, there is also a difference in the standard, or criterion, upon which we are to rely. When we judge others, the criterion we often use is nothing other than our own apparently objective standards, our own preconceived notions, of how people should conduct themselves. We seek to impose these on others without really caring about what their particular situations are like. The benchmark Jesus uses today, however, is quite different. As we will hear in the gospel tomorrow, the good fruit that Jesus is asking us to look out for consists in doing the will of my Father in heaven. The standard is set by God and not by us. But what does this mean and how do we recognize it when we see it?
Here it is useful, perhaps, to consider the different metaphors Jesus uses. On Monday, Jesus used the metaphor of sight. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye… Today, in using the metaphor of good and bad fruit, Jesus implies the need to rely on another sense. For we can only really be sure about the quality of fruit when we have tasted for ourselves. As they say: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In order to learn to recognize whether someone is likely to be doing God’s will we ourselves need to have some idea of what God’s will looks and feels like. We learn to distinguish between good from bad fruit only to the extent that we are continually learning to acquire the taste for God. This implies relating to God not only from a distance but more intimately. It implies a striving to live out of the Covenant that God makes with us in Christ. For it is only then that we learn, as Abram learns, what true love looks, feels and tastes like. It is only then that we have a felt knowledge of the radical generosity of God toward us – count the stars if you can. Such will be your descendants – and of God’s undying commitment to us – the Lord remembers his covenant forever. To distinguish between good and bad trees, true and false prophets, we need to move from curious onlookers to active participants in the mystery of God’s love for us. We need to move from looking to tasting.
How are we being invited to do so today?