Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Medjugorje - The Tree and its Fruit

"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."
- Matthew 7:15-20

In the verses above, Jesus explains how to identify false prophets. According to this, the fruit of the prophet should be looked at more closely than the prophet themselves to determine if a they are a true or false prophet. But the application of this principle has been expanded and applied to just about every area of the faith.

It's not uncommon to hear people quote verse 16 ("By their fruits you will know them.") when they are discerning a situation where they find the "tree" troubling. They say something like, "Look at all the good fruit that's coming from of it, it must be OK."

But things begin to get complicated when the tree bears both good and bad fruit. I would say that Medjugorje is this type of tree. No doubt good fruit is present, but there also is bad. And with this type of tree, I think you find two common methods of discernment.

The first method is to argue that a tree cannot be considered a good tree if it bears any bad fruit. I guess you could say the logic here is that a tree like this may not be safe to eat from. And being that there are other trees growing nearby with fruit that has been guaranteed to be good (Fatima, Lourdes, Guadeloupe, etc.), it makes little sense to risk eating from it.

The second method is to basically weigh the good and bad fruit and make a judgement based on the outcome. Here the thinking is that the fruit can be easily separated into good (long confession lines, conversions, reported healings, etc.) and bad (disobedience to the Bishop, rebellious Franciscans, $$$, etc.) piles. And the larger and heavier the good pile is, the more assured they are of the tree being overall, good.

The Church has not made a decision on Medjugorje, so Catholics are free to make their own minds up on the topic.

But I'm curious - How do you see it?

Is it a mistake to reject the good with the bad and possibly throw the baby out with the bath water? Or is it a bigger mistake to overlook the bad for the sake of the good and run the risk of letting the ends justify the means?

16 comments:

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

As if you have to ask;-)

I think the best thing to do is just what the Church teaches us to do and all the good fruit will be revealed. It's not good to obsess on ANY revelation or visions outside the Church. Even approved aparitions have many people/demons out there, trying to destroy the faith of the people in what is true about our Church. We have to have faith about such things as, "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." and trust the Church to help us discern, right? Are we being obedient to our faith when we strain so hard to see Jesus that we block out the real graces he bestows upon us?

(The word "alleged" should be used before "apparition" in this case.)

It probably won't be decided until the end of the alleged apparitions (which show no sign of ending any time soon and make the visionaries very well to do) so I'm not really holding my breath for the Vatican to make any judgement in my time. Meanwhile, I'll pray, take care of my family and neighbors, do my best to make this a better world, and hope that whatever the reason for the alleged apparitions are will not sending many people down the wrong path to great Jesus in the end.

Pilgrim said...

“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.”

So why suggest that both good and bad fruit can come from the same tree. Jesus is very clear in what he says.

It appears that you are attempting to attach a fruit (bad?) to a tree that it doesn’t belong to. But then sometimes this can happen when one works in the dark and not the light. In darkness one can become easily disorientated and not recognise the type of tree. In the dark all trees can appear the same.

J. Thorp said...

As a kid hunting with my dad, I used to love plucking and eating the tart and tiny apples from the gnarled little trees along the fence rows. They were invariably spotted and sometimes wormy, but so tasty -- and no worse for me, I suspect, than the fat, wax-coated varieties from the supermarket. Maybe even better ...

The scripture passage *seems* clear, but I've yet to see a perfect tree of any kind. Might not an imperfect tree bear imperfect fruit?

My advice: Keep your eyes open and your God-given wits about you, whatever you do -- this evening, and every day.

Serviam! said...

Pilgrim, you bring up a very good point. There could be a third option: two trees, one bearing good fruit and one bearing bad fruit. Assuming that Medjugorje is a single tree when in fact it is not, could account for the mix of good and bad fruit. Thanks for the addition!

But, it seems that you are saying that those who do not choose to believe in Medjugorje are working "in the dark", and have become "disorientated". The Church has never made such a broad assertion and so neither should we.

Whether we think what is happening at Medjugorje is of a heavenly origin or not, neither side should insinuate that the other is somehow darkly mislead.

Pilgrim said...

“But, it seems that you are saying that those who do not choose to believe in Medjugorje are working "in the dark"

Serviam... I never mentioned anything about anyone choosing not to believe in Medjugorje. These are your words – and you have attached a different meaning to my words “in the dark”, but put them together with yours to conject something entirely different. This is a good example again of attaching the bad fruit to the good tree. It’s a trap many fall into in their endeavour to find some kind of falsity with the truth of Medjugorje: smear, cloud, distort, confuse (not always deliberately, may I add). But it happens.

But going back to the tree. We must not forget who the “tree” Jesus is referring to when he speaks about good fruit. It is himself, the Truth. That is why his branches can only bear good fruit.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John)

To date, after 26 years and many attempts to destroy Medjugorje the tree is still bearing good fruit good fruit.

The Vatican recognises the good fruit. Cardinal Ratzinger once spoke about this 17 years ago after a private meeting with Fr Slavko (from Medjugorje) in 1991.

“The Italian paper il Sabato (14 Sept. issue) reported on the private meeting between Fr. Slavko and Card. Ratzinger in Austria just recently. “The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has apparently confirmed that the Church will not suffocate anything that bears good fruit...”

Move on 17 years... and the events at Medjugorje have still not been “suffocated” by the Church. Surely this is a positive sign that the Church continues to recognise the proliferation of “good fruit” coming from Medjugorje.

And as Cardinal Ratziner, the current Pope has twice visited Medjugorje on private visits.

The Medjugorje parish website also reports that 34,265 priests came to Medjugorje in 2007. Quite a number.

Finally, I was not insinuating that you or anyone else is “darkly misled” over Medjugorje. My reference to darkness has an entirely different connotation and is meant as not having full knowledge. Sometimes looking in from the outside does not allow full access to what the truth is. It is better to, “Come and see” – just as the 34,000 plus priests did last year.

Serviam! said...

"I was not insinuating that you or anyone else is "darkly misled" over Medjugorje."

Thank you for the clarification Pilgrim, I apologize for the misunderstanding.

Thanks again for adding to the discussion.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

“The Italian paper il Sabato (14 Sept. issue) reported on the private meeting between Fr. Slavko and Card. Ratzinger in Austria just recently. “The prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has apparently confirmed that the Church will not suffocate anything that bears good fruit...”

Okeydokey artichokey...two words:
"private" and "apparently". This quote from a report of some private conversation and heresay isn't exactly proof positive...or any proof at all!

And why in the world would anyone know any better if the apparitions were true if they came and saw? Don't the "visionaries" do tours and bring Mary along with them, supposedly? Does Jesus really want me to go all the way to Medjugorje and burn my retinae from staring at the sun and get scuffed up knees from climbing rocky hills in search of some great revelation? I know I'm being a bit snarky here but I do think this is serious stuff that has an influence on our faith. I do take it seriously but I have two things that will "prove" to me that all this stuff is true.
1. When my plastic, glow-in-the-dark rosary turns gold.
2. When there is a "healing Mass" or some, supposed "healer" comes to lay hands on people and there are no "catchers" and everyone gets slain in the spirit without knocking themselves silly or bleed from the head (especially on our marble church floor...ouch!).

Pilgrim said...

Laura, I wasn’t making any claim about proof when I posted the press clipping. As to proof. What is it about Medjugorje that needs proof. Do you mean the apparitions? Because no-one can ‘prove’ the visionaries see Our Lady. Haven’t been able to disprove, either. Proof is not we are waiting for – just an endorsement from the Church. But nothing will move on this until the apparitions end.

As to the two proofs you request, I can say that none of my beads have ever turned gold, but why should I expect them to... and I have seen people fall without catcher and remain unhurt.

And why do you think you have to stare at the sun in Medjugorje when you can do it at home? Gold rosaries, spinning suns, are not what Medjugorje is about.

As to visiting Medjugorje, I could ask why visit a Church to pray? Why visit your mum or dad or your kids or a friend when they are at the end of a phone? Why did Mary visit her cousin Elizabeth? Could it be something to do with the heart’s desire?

I notice you didn’t comment on Cardinal Ratzingers visits to Medjugorje?

Pilgrim said...

Bu coincidence, Our Lady’s message of today (January 25), speaks of fruits.:

Dear children! With the time of Lent, you are approaching a time of grace. Your heart is like ploughed soil and it is ready to receive the fruit which will grow into what is good. You, little children, are free to choose good or evil. Therefore, I call you to pray and fast. Plant joy and the fruit of joy will grow in your hearts for your good, and others will see it and receive it through your life. Renounce sin and choose eternal life. I am with you and intercede for you before my Son. Thank you for having responded to my call. January 25, 2008

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Pilgrim, Your whole blog(s) is about believing the the "apparitions" of Medjugorje, so don't kid yourself into believing that you are not trying to "prove" it. That would be like me pretending to be open minded to the idea that it might be happening, after all. I'm not, and I don't make any bones about that. I realize that it won't be decided in my lifetime so I won't be visiting any fake shrines (not an approved shrine, whether Card. Ratz. went there, or not. Also, I'm very good at pratfalls and so are other people, especially ones who don't want to get hurt!). So, no holding my breath that my rosary turns gold (All the people who went to Medj. that I know claim this happened to someone in their group or to them, personally. It IS a GOOD CHUNK of what Medjugorje is about! Proof is what everyone who goes there is searching for, in one form or another. Come on, admit it!). I'm not going to comment about it anymore because nobody wins in this argument that could go back and forth for days and days and never get anywhere. You believe in the "messages". I don't. Let it goooooooo and I'll try to, too. Thank you for having responded to my comments;-)

Pilgrim said...

Laura, my original response was in response to Serviam’s post. The blog invites comments and I was responding to the comment about trees and fruit. I have no need to attempt to try and “prove” anything about Medjugorje. And I would be wasting my time attempting to do so. I respect that some do not believe and others do. We are free to choose. You made a choice to respond to Serviam and myself. Can’t others do the same? Who can prove God exists. It is only by the gift of faith that any of us believe. So don’t be in a rush wanting proof. As you say, you won’t find it in your lifetime. And if you did, there’s the question of whether your knowledge is with or without love. ( 1 Corinthians 13 : 1-13)

Germanicus said...

"But things begin to get complicated when the tree bears both good and bad fruit. I would say that Medjugorje is this type of tree. No doubt good fruit is present, but there also is bad."

Not to be picky but in this case perhaps our Lord's parable about wheat and tares or the catch of fish, would be more to the point.
-Those who came to baptized by John were not all repentant
-The 5000 who were miraculously fed were only in it for the food [or so Jesus is recorded as saying].
-When Jesus cleansed the Temple area he did not condemn the temple he threw out the money changers.
-Of the 7 churches addressed in The Revelation only 1 is praised 6 are reproved.

I would be careful about being too strict in the application of parables. The tree and fruit parable could also be used to justify that Jesus was a false prophet because the church has produced bad fruit. I think that would be a wrong-headed conclusion. The parables should be understood generally not precisely.
In this age we need to accept the bad with the good. It is the only way the world works.

Serviam! said...

Germanicus,
I agree, the tree and fruit parable may not be best applied here. I guess the point I was trying to make was that I often hear people using this verse while discerning belief in this area, not endorsing it as such. That was why I pointed to a tree bearing both good and bad and the dilemma it places someone who does in the end. I admittedly didn’t do a very good job being clear, but I tend to lose focus when working near a "third rail".

"The parables should be understood generally not precisely."

Well, I think one could make the argument that comparing Medjugorje to a fruit bearing tree is a pretty general understanding of the parable;-). I do think though that parables carry general meaning and principles that can be – when properly used – applicable and beneficial in other particular situations in life.

Pilgrim said...

If you read the messages given by Our Lady from Medjugorje, she makes it very clear that satan is active there. Our Lady has also stated that where she and the Holy Spirit are present, satan is close by. As far as I understand, the visionaries, the Franciscan priests who pastor Medjugorje, and the local people, all avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They have sins to confess. (Even the Pope needs to confess.) This should not obscure the fact that good fruit can still be produced, or lead to accusations of the tree being rotten, and therefore the tree is incapable of producing fruit. It is the Father who prunes in the garden he creates. All of us require regular pruning if we are to grow in faith as the Father desires.

Dear children! These days you have been experiencing how Satan is working. I am always with you, and don't you be afraid of temptations because God is always watching over us. Also I have given myself to you and I sympathize with you even in the smallest temptation. Thank you for having responded to my call. July 19, 1984

Dear children! These days Satan is working underhandedly against this parish, and you, dear children, have fallen asleep in prayer, and only some are going to Mass. Withstand the days of temptation! Thank you for having responded to my call. January 17, 1985

Kevin Symonds said...

I see you are still at it, Pilgrim. Have you been to my blog where I responded to your slander against Bishop Peric?

Cardinal Ratzinger flat-up DENIED having been to Medjugorje incognito.

He also stated in 1998 that any statements attributed to him or John Paul II concerning Medjugorje were completely/absolutely false "frei erfunden" in the original letter.

What we know--proof positive--of Pope Benedict's mind is what he said to Medjugorje's Bishop in February 2006:

"We at the Congregation always asked ourselves how can any believer accept as authentic, apparitions that occur every day and for so many years? Are they still occurring every day?"

Pilgrim said...

Kevin...

Cardinal Ratzinger flat-up DENIED having been to Medjugorje incognito.

Show me?