If it fails to bear fruit, cut it down!
Homily preached March 20, 2022
by Father Michael Deering
There are several books out now where people describe “near-death” experiences.
Here are a few of their titles. See if you notice anything common among them.
“90 Minutes in Heaven”, “To Heaven and back”,
“Proof of Heaven” and “Heaven is for real”.
It’s apparent from these titles, that most of the current best selling books
about “near-death” experiences ... talk about Heaven.
All of us believe in Heaven. We speak of it twice in our Creed when we say,
“For us men and for our salvation, he (Jesus) came down from Heaven.”Later we say, “He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
Heaven is real; and it’s affirming to hear of personal experiences that verify this.
But Jesus tells us that there’s another reality beside Heaven ... and that’s Hell.
Yes ... in the Gospels ... Jesus speaks more about Hell than about Heaven!
Have you ever heard of “a near death” experience that speaks about Hell?
I have! It wasn’t through a book … but rather through a TV interview with a Priest,
who I later had the opportunity to meet at a Conference.
24 years ago, back when Mother Angelica was still in good health, she interviewed a Priest on EWTN, by the name of Fr. Steven Scheier, who described to her
a near-death experience that he had as the result of a head-on car crash.
In the crash, Fr. Scheier, broke his neck, but went on to live because of
the heroic actions of those on the scene and
the prayers lifted up by all the churches in the town where he lived.
Months later, when he was able to return to his Parish duties, he had a supernatural experience during Mass. One day, as he was proclaiming the Gospel, the very Gospel that I proclaimed today, from Luke 13 about the fig tree that did not produce fruit, Fr. Scheier said he saw the page become illuminated and enlarged ...
and come right off the Book toward him! He was very alarmed!
He said he finished Mass as best he could, went back to his Rectory, sat in his chair and there he remembered a conversation that took place right after his accident …
a conversation with Jesus, for he was in ... the judgment seat of Jesus Christ!
While he didn’t see Jesus, he heard Him.
And Jesus went through his whole life showing him his many habitual and unconfessed sins. And Fr. Scheier acknowledged to Mother Angelica on the show, that when you’re talking to Truth, there’s no way to give excuses …
all you can say is yes.
So Fr. Scheier recalled saying to Jesus: “Yes, Lord, I did that. Yes,Lord, I did that.”
At the end Jesus said, “Your sentence is hell.”
To which Fr. Scheier said, “Yes Lord, I know.”
Father admitted … that that’s the only thing Jesus could have said,
because Jesus is the Just Judge ... and that was what he deserved.
Then Fr. Scheier heard a female voice say,
“Son, will you please spare his life and his eternal soul?”
Jesus said, “Mother, he’s been a priest for 12 years now for himself and not for me.
Let him reap the punishment he deserves.”
Mary continued, “But Son, can we give him special graces and strengths, and then
see if he bears fruit. If not, your will be done.”
After a short pause Fr. Scheier heard Jesus say, “Mother, he’s yours!”
And there he was ... physically and spiritually recovered ... on TV
sharing his near-death experience and witnessing to this encounter …
that all of us will have ... in the judgment seat of Jesus Christ!
- How many people there are who don’t believe that they will one-day come
before Jesus ... who is all Truth.
- How many people there are who think that they’ll be able to talk themselves
out of the situation when they’re reminded of their sinfulness.
- How many people there are who think that just because
they’ve been baptized, or just because they’ve professed Jesus as Lord, that they have a seat in Heaven and all they have to do is die to take their seat.
That’s not what this Priest discovered!
And that’s not what our Scripture readings say today.
In our Second Reading, St. Paul is warning all the baptized
that their salvation can be lost if they persist in their evil ways.
He first reminds them of their many ancestors, who
were baptized into Moses by walking through the parted waters of the Red Sea ...
who all ate the same food, (manna from Heaven)
and all drank the same drink (water from the rock at Meribah) and yet,
Paul writes: “God was not pleased with most of them,.”
Ouch, here they were... doing the right things ... but they were also sinning too!
For this Paul says, “They were struck down in the desert.”
Paul goes on, “These things happened as examples for us, (who are baptized into Jesus Christ), so that we do not desire evil things as they did.”
He points out: “These things have been written down as a warning to us.”
Why would Paul be sending a warning to baptized Christians ...
if there wasn’t a real chance of them losing their salvation?
I’ve heard people say, “God wouldn’t send a nice guy like me to Hell!”
Well, you know what, I found Fr. Steven Scheier to be a very nice guy ...
but, by his own admission, there was grave sin in his life …
Sin that he had not turned away from … sin that he had not repented of.
Here was a nice guy … whose sentence was Hell!
If all you had to do to get to Heaven was be baptized, then why did Paul write 13 Letters in the New Testament, all of which were directed to baptized Christians?
Because they were acting like the Chosen People of the Old Testament ...
and figuring that just because they were marked for God they could go and sin.
Being marked for God in Baptism, is all the more reason to turn away from sin.
By Baptism, we become God’s children ... and we’re expected to be good like Him.
Baptism is God’s gracious gift to be used for good.
It is not some magic ritual that assures us of Heaven.
Baptism adopts into God’s family ...
and infuses us with God’s Holy Spirit ... for the work of
serving God and neighbor in this life ... so as to merit Eternal Life.
So, while Baptism is indeed essential for Heaven ... more is required.
By Baptism we are made a new creation in Jesus Christ.
So then ... we have to ... avoid sin and live for Him!
Sin distorts our resemblance to God.
Mortal Sin breaks our connection with God.
If we die in Mortal Sin, our destiny will be hell …
which means eternal punishment and eternal separation from God.
This can happen ... even to the Baptized!
Jesus says twice today, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
This side of eternity, Jesus is Savior. The other side of eternity, Jesus is Judge!
Now is the time to go to Him, while we’re still alive, trusting what the psalmist wrote:
“He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.”
Lent is the time to examine our souls ... to identify and admit of our sins ...
and then to repent and make amends with God while we still have time.
If you don’t, then according to St. Paul and Fr. Steven Scheier ...
you’re running a race with disaster.
For us Catholics, that means going to Confession.
That gives us a great new beginning! But there’s more! Yes more!
You see, “committing sin” isn’t the only thing that can keep us from Heaven ...
“not bearing fruit in our lives” will also keep us from entering Heaven.
I call it S & S … Sin & Selfishness … neither of these are found in Heaven
and so ... if we have either of them ... they will keep us out of Heaven!
Today, Jesus tells the parable of a person who planted a fig tree in his orchard … and when he came searching for fruit and found none, he said, “Cut it down.”
Well, Jesus planted His Holy Spirit in each one of us on the Day of Baptism,
And when He calls us to Himself ... He will be looking for fruit.
If He finds none, He will say the same words ... “Cut it down.”
In essence, that’s the very thing that Jesus said about Fr. Steven Scheier,
“He’s been a priest for 12 years now for himself and not for me.”
In other words, he bore fruit only for himself and not for God and for building up the Kingdom of God on earth … so he was to be cut down … ‘Your sentence is Hell.
Thank goodness Mary, the Mother of us all, interceded for Fr. Scheier and begged for more time & grace for him to bear fruit. She was the gardener in the parable!
So, the question is: Are you living your life for Jesus ... or for yourself?
How would you answer that?
To help you see if you’re living for Jesus or for yourself ... consider
how well are you performing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
*** Corporal Works ***
*** Spiritual Works ***
Feed the hungry
Counsel the doubtful
Give drink to the thirsty
Instruct the ignorant
Clothe the naked
Admonish the sinner
Shelter the homeless
Comfort the sorrowful
Visit the sick
Visit the imprisoned
Bear wrongs patiently
Bury the dead
Pray for the living and the dead
Certainly you young Parents are doing most of these Works for your children!
Feeding them, clothing them, sheltering them, and caring for them when sick.
Counseling them, instructing them, admonishing them and comforting them.
But how about after your children are grown and they’re out on their own?
Are you still involved in serving God and neighbor?
That will tell you if you’re bearing the kind of fruit that Jesus is looking for!
All these works involve serving ... God and Neighbor ... not yourself!
Are you living for yourself ... or for Him?
Are you producing good fruit and building up the Kingdom of God on earth?
Or are you simply focused on your enjoyment, your satisfaction and your pleasure. playing crosswords & video games; watching TV and Videos, following sports, doing hobbies, shopping and generally wasting time on yourself?
That’s not bearing fruit for Jesus! That’s not building up His Kingdom on earth!
Ask yourself: How many people have you sponsored through RCIA?
How many people have you even talked to about RCIA?
How many new people have you brought with you to Sunday Mass?
How many have you even invited to Mass?
How many people have you sent a link to of our filmed Masses or Formed videos?
How many people have you introduced to Jesus?
How many people have you invited to come to or come back to the Faith?
These are the things that matter to Jesus ... that’s what bearing fruit means to Him!
None of us know how much time we have left to live in this world.
This video of the near-death experience of Fr. Steven Scheier is very sombering.
It clearly shows that salvation can be lost … even by nice guys!
Fr. Steven Scheier had received many Sacraments … Baptism, Communion, Confirmation and Holy Orders, and still he was living apart from God in sin and living for himself and not for Jesus. Imagine, a Catholic Priest sentenced to Hell.
Only through the intercession of Mary and the mercy of Jesus ...
was he spared eternal damnation.
Hell is real and we need to take our salvation seriously.
S & S ... Sin and Selfishness ... can prevent us from entering Heaven.
Yes, even though we are baptized Christians, and even though we claim Jesus as Lord, and eat the same spiritual food (the Bread of Life)
and drink the same spiritual drink (the Blood of Christ)... like the people of old ... we’re still susceptible to falling away from God & into Hell.
Paul warns us of this today, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure
should take care not to fall.”
As we approach the mid-point of Lent, let’s make amends with the Lord now!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you’ll have time before your death.
Fr. Steven Scheier didn’t have time to think about anything, let alone repenting,
when he was involved in a head-on car accident.
Now is the time to confess your sins & make amends with the Lord.
Now is the time to bear fruit and start living for the Lord. Amen! Amen!