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_*“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)*_

The difference between a good tree and a bad one is not their shape, size, age, or color. We can only tell a good tree from a bad one by tasting its fruits. A tree may appear very healthy, but there is a problem if it bears rotten fruits. The same goes for people, especially those who preside at God’s altar. What lessons can we learn from the phenomenon of false prophets:

– Actions speak louder than words. We are not who we claim to be (titles, positions, job descriptions, etc.). We are what we do (i.e., the fruits we bear). If a tree is good, it will only bear good fruits regardless of whoever comes to collect its fruit. Jesus said: “Beware of practising righteousness (piety) before men to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1). This was the problem with the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus described as “whitewashed tombs.” (cf. Matthew 23:27).

– To emphasize how dangerous a false prophet is, Jesus, in today’s Gospel passage, refers to them as “ravenous wolves.” Running from a known enemy is easier than one who pretends to be your friend. A false prophet destroys the church from within. No one can serve two masters. I am either a good shepherd or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

– Jesus, in His wisdom, knew that as long as the church exists, there will always be a “Judas Iscariot” among its apostles. False prophets are like the weeds sown among the wheat; it is difficult to tell the difference, and in an attempt to pull out the weeds, one may also pull out the wheat. By saying, “Beware of false prophets,” Jesus wants us to be on guard and to exercise discernment. It is not all that glitters that is gold. On the last day, many would come before God, claiming to have worked miracles in His name, and He would say: “I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!” (Luke 13:27).

– Conversely, do not throw out the baby with the bath water. Even a broken instrument can sometimes be useful. For instance, Jesus said: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice.” (Matthew 23:2-3). Given the excesses of false prophets in Nigeria, I sympathize with those who condemn Christianity. Some people have torn the bible and set it ablaze on social media in reaction to their experience with fake prophets. No wonder Jesus was very emphatic about scandals. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung round his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42).

– In today’s First Reading, the Bible (“Book of the Law” as it was known then) was discovered while the workers restored the temple. It was a moment of revelation for the king and the people. They realized that God had warned them through the prophets, whom they ignored, and that their present problems resulted from neglecting God’s words. As much as we must be on guard against false prophets, there are consequences for ignoring the genuine prophets sent from God. There are bad clergymen and women, but God will hold us responsible if we ignore the good ones.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, free us from self-deception and pretence. We ask this through Our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.,

Priest. Bible Study: 2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3, Ps. 119:33-37,40, Matthew 7:15-20).*

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu


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