"Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies." -Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta)
Gospel Text: (MT 7:15-20)
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.”
Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast Day of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, who were Martyrs in England in the 16th century. You likely know the story of what brought these men to the scaffold at which they were beheaded: King Henry VIII claimed that he was the head of the Catholic Church within England. He forced all bishops and all government officials to sign their names to this lie. John Fisher was the only bishop in England who would not sign his name. Thomas More was the highest-ranking layman not to do so. On the scaffold, Thomas More declared, “I am the King’s good servant; but God’s first.”
Even if England had not been torn apart by Henry VIII, these two men would still very likely have become saints. Their dedication to their respective vocations was exemplary long before they were forced to choose between God and country.
When confronted with a difficult moral choice, we know how easy it is to tell ourselves that we, as individuals, are “just one person”, and that one little choice in the wrong direction isn’t going to hurt anything. The next time we face that temptation, say a prayer to Saints John Fisher and Thomas More, in order to remember that our world, and country, and our families need people who will put God first in everything.
For Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More the lesson of gradualism was all too clear. They watched and attempted to prevent Henry VIII’s gradual drift away from faith living. They were challenged in a dramatic moment to accept the gradual move away from God or pay with their lives. They chose to die as God’s faithful servants, as opposed to live a lie.
Remember this, day by day, we are able to see the fruits of kindness, goodness, compassion, encouragement, and affirmation in our lives. Once begun, the small deeds gradually grow to permanent fixtures in the way that we live daily. We are then able to recognize and rejoice in the good fruit. The same is true of any destructive, critical or cold ways of behaving until we cannot even recognize we are in a downward spiral. Then, only bad fruit becomes apparent.
As Jesus said in today’s Gospel Reading, “So by their fruits you will know them.”