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False prophets

Gospel Reading: Mt 7:15-20
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.”

Already in Old Testament times, false prophets were common, and it was sometimes difficult to distinguish them from the true prophets. Still, certain pointers can help us today to follow Jesus’ advice to “beware of false prophets.”

A true prophet proclaims what is in line with the teachings of Christ. We know only too well that these teachings are not always easy to accept. They can be painful, demanding, going against what we like to do.

False prophets say what people like to hear. They charm people with beautiful words and promises. A good example is found in the confrontation between the true prophet Jeremiah and the false prophet Hananiah (cf Jer 28). Hananiah tells the people that the yoke of Babylon will be taken away – something the people love to hear – while Jeremiah appears with a yoke on his shoulders and declares the opposite. History will prove Jeremiah right.

False prophets strive to please their audience. I think here of those who preach the so-called prosperity gospel:

Invest in stocks, get rich – wealth is a blessing from God. People like to hear this, especially when they are suffering from poverty.

Jesus does not exhort people to become rich. On the contrary, his message is difficult to hear: “Take up your cross…” or “Go sell what you have and give to the poor.” Jesus is a true prophet from God.

“If one has the answers to all the questions – that is the proof that God is not with him. It means that he is a false prophet using religion for himself. The great leaders of the people of God, like Moses, have always left room for doubt. You must leave room for the Lord, not for our certainties; we must be humble” (Pope Francis).
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