This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3
8 The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the Temple of Yahweh.’ And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, who read it. 9 Shaphan the secretary went to the king, reporting furthermore to him as follows, ‘Your servants have melted down the silver which was in the Temple and have handed it over to the masters of works attached to the Temple of the Lord.’
10 Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘The priest Hilkiah has given me a book’; and Shaphan read it aloud in the king’s presence. 11 On hearing the words of the Book of the Law he tore his clothes. 12 Then the king gave the following order to the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s minister:
13 ‘Go and consult the Lord on behalf of me and the people about the words of the book that has been discovered; for the Lord’s furious wrath has been kindled against us because our ancestors disobeyed the word of the Lord by not doing what this book says they ought to have done.’
1 The king then had all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem summoned to him,
2 and the king went up to the Temple of the Lord with all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, priests, prophets and the whole populace, high and low. In their hearing he read out the entire contents of the Book of the Covenant discovered in the Temple of the Lord. 3 The king then, standing on the dais, bound himself by the covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, to keep his commandments, decrees and laws with all his heart and soul, and to carry out the terms of the covenant as written in this book.
In this story the religious reforms of King Josiah are credited to the rediscovery of something like the Book of Deuteronomy. As the theology of the authors of the books of Kings, is more or less identical with that of the book of Deuteronomy, we should maybe be a little sceptical of what we are reading here. Nevertheless, the two commandments, which constitute this theology, i.e,
- love and worship the One God alone;
- carry out justice in the nation without favour to the rich or powerful;
remain a challenge to the life of all nations. The implication that idolatry is the root of injustice, may seem very old fashioned and inappropriate for a multi-faith society, but it may be a vital insight for all that.
The avoidance of idolatry and the provision of justice are spelt out in detail, in the book of the Law, for these general principles must be applied to specific cases, in order to make a real difference to the life of the nation. This too, may be a vital insight, in this case for those who imagine that a vague commitment to goodwill, is sufficient justice.
Gospel, Matthew 7:15-20
15 ‘Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. 16 You will be able to tell them by their fruits. Can people pick grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, a sound tree produces good fruit but a rotten tree bad fruit. 18 A sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit. 19 Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown on the fire. 20 I repeat, you will be able to tell them by their fruits.
“Good priests or ministers are those who increase the size of congregations.” This is so much taken for granted in some quarters, that clergy are hired or fired according to this principle. There are today, moreover, a vast army of people who don’t and can’t minister to parishes, who will, for a price, tell practicing clergy how to do it. Some of these advisors are millionaires at the head of large corporations. Almost all of what they say and do is self-regarding idolatry.
Jesus was speaking about the fruits of goodness in the lives of the people, the fruits Paul describes as “of the Spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.
A ministry which cooperates with the Spirit in producing these fruits is a good one.