Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits… Every noble tree bears beautiful fruit, and a rotten/ σαπρὸν/sapron tree bears toilsome fruit. A noble tree cannot bear toilsome fruit, nor can a σαπρὸν/sapron tree bear beautiful fruit. Every tree that does not bear beautiful fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. By their fruits, you will know them.
“Not everyone who calls me, ‘Kyrie, Kyrie,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. It is only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will tell me, ‘Kyrie, Kyrie, did we not proclaim the Good News in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you makers of the lawless.” Matthew 7:15-23
This Thursday June 28 is the Memorial of Saint Irenaeus, bishop and martyr at our Reno Cathedral, and it includes Matthew 7:15-23. As we look at Jesus at the center of our altar, we cannot help but ask for those who proclaim the Good News in Jesus’ name, or drive out demon in his name, or do mighty deeds in his name and the rest, “What did they do wrong?”
This passage does not make a lot of sense in Greek, but it does in Hebrew and Aramaic. We think we are Saffron/wise, when in reality we are σαπρὸν/sapron/rotten. We think we are wise because we know nouns and verbs, subjects and predicates, adverbs and adjectives, because we dot our “T’s” and cross our “I’s.” We follow all the dictates of good diction. Our titles have the correct verb in place and the right punctuation. Do we know why the verb is part of the predicate? The reason comes from Aristotle and his logic. The algorithm goes something like this:
Bill is going to the store.
Going to the store is fun.
Bill is doing something fun.
The program, so far, works fine.
Sue loves Bill.
Bill loves Barbara.
Aristotelian Logic calls the key part of the algorithm the middle term. If the verb is not part of the predicate, the system comes up with the absurd. Sue may well love Barbara, but it does not follow from the formula. What is wrong with the formula? The verb is part of the predicate. “Loves Bill,” is not the same as “Bill.” There is no middle term.
The Hebrew Torah does not mean “Law.” “To be apart from Torah,” means something far more than being apart from the law. Torah/ תורה comes from a root, ירה “To permeate,” or “To penetrate.” “It is not important how much we get into Torah and Gospel; it is important how much Torah and Gospel gets into us.” The grammarians scrupulously follow the externals, but they do not have a relationship with them and most certainly not with their founder. They are then surprised to here the founder say, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you makers of the lawless.”
In Hebrew and Aramaic, the word for tree, עץ, eights, and the word for “counselor,” is the same. Jesus is not talking about trees, but about the grammarians and the leadership. They know the rules and they follow the externals of the rules, but they never get into the rules and the rules never get into them.
Most children hate Algebra and English because they find the rules toilsome, ignoble, rotten fruit about which Jesus complains. The grammarians think they are wise/saffron, when in reality they are σαπρὸν/sapron/full of toil, rotten to the core. Fearful about the violation of their rules, they become ravenous wolves, paranoid; protecting what is precious to them. Irenaeus is the Greek word for peace, and every time we apply the externals over their reason we kill Saint Irenaeus; we kill peace for the sake of our piece of grammar.
At our Cathedral in Reno Nevada, let us watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, the grammarians, and the Sadducees. Let us strive to make beautiful fruit all will desire to enjoy. Let us cause our Cathedral to be the romantic hall, with our candles, our flowers, our fruit turned into sweet cherry wine, turned into the precious body and blood. We may well be careful to dot our “Ts” and cross our “Is” but we do so for a reason, to communicate with God and with each other. We convey real meaning; we convey love, in Hebrew אהבה. We convey the father, אבא, we convey the one who is to come, הבא, not rules.