Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
I have often written about the importance of discerning fruit and really trying to emphasize the need to know whether the fruit we observe is good or bad. The reason I think this is necessary is because of the tendency today to associate any fruit as being good fruit, without any thought on whether it could be evil. Today’s short reflection will be an expansion of that thought using the passage from St. Paul above.
Why must we test everything? Do we have to test anything that comes from teachers or scholars of the faith? Could potentially “faithful” teachers be intentionally leading us astray? These are questions we must ask ourselves everyday when we encounter some new information. We do not have the luxury anymore of just assuming that all we see and hear is from God. How can we be certain after all? One cannot see directly into the heart of a man, so how do you know the intent of the individual? Is it just honest confusion or willful deceit? My intent is not to make us question every little detail about everything we hear but rather its building a holy skepticism to ensure that we are not misled. Gone are the times when one could take things without much thought because in my mind now, there is great confusion in our midst sown by the enemy. This confusion is in society and the church as well. As such, we must develop a holy skepticism so that we are not misled from the truth.
And then many will be led into sin; they will betray and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold – Matthew 24:10-12
False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect – Mark 13:22
The Lord warns us that many will come to mislead us and that even the elect could be misled! Our Lord saw the confusion that would be sown in our time and warned us to be mindful of this.
I want to make something clear. I believe that there are in fact very good teachers, scholars, holy men and women who are actively trying to lead others to the true Christ. I also think there are some good souls who perhaps are unknowingly confused. I don’t want to make it seem like this is just doom and gloom, that we cannot trust anyone in the church or society and that we are all lost. The only requirement for us is to develop the ability to spot the real deal or just some illusion. This is why St. Paul tells us to test everything. As we test everything, we begin to develop a sense of what is in fact good and what is evil. This is something very important!
I want to share a story. Someone was talking to me about how they are blessed with many gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they often receive prophesies. Now, this individual had shared one of these prophesies with me and I found it interesting. My immediate thought to all this was, “Well, how do you know this is authentic or just something conjured up from yourself or something dark?” This individual accepted this prophesy as true without testing whether it was in fact valid OR invalid. There is this assumption that anything we receive supernaturally is good and there is no need to question this. In all fairness, this person may have had an actual, valid prophesy but it was never tested! It is as if you are taking a gamble and following something that may or may not be valid. It is rather shocking to me that people would take a gamble like that but again, if one is not in the mindset to test everything, why would you? St. John of the Cross advises us for this reason to not just rush and seek these extraordinary graces because we can be deceived! We have to approach these things with utmost caution.
All this is to help us develop the ability to see what is good and stay away from evil. If you perceive good, stick to that for that is a blessing. If you perceive evil, be weary and stay away. If you are having difficulty perceiving one way or another, I would err on the side of caution until the Lord grants you the grace to see it in a clearer light. If you happen to have a holy friend or priest, seek their input. Of course, it is assumed these individuals are in fact holy and not misleading you but once this is established, bounce your thoughts off these people and see how it reacts in your heart. If you heart is at peace, continue on, if however you find that you are still restless, you may need further guidance and grace.
Above all pray and receive the sacraments as frequently as you can. Read scripture often and the works of the saints. All these will be necessary for you to be grounded in truth so that the eye of your intellect will be able to perceive illusions and to see the true Christ. Ask the Blessed Mother often to guide you to Jesus Christ for she will guide all those who implore her to Jesus Christ and keep them save from illusions.