26 June 2013

Are you a false prophet?

12th Week OT (W) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic, NOLA 

The Christ's Herald, John the Baptist, has been on the Church's mind this week. We consider him the last true prophet of God, or rather the last prophet singularly sent to proclaim God's Word. The Catechism teaches us, “In [John the Baptist], the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah”(no. 719). If John has completed the tasks given to all of God's prophets, why is Jesus warning us about false prophets? And why does Paul tell us that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit? Since we have all been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, we are all prophets. So, the office and role of prophet still exists. What John completed was the prophetic mission of the Old Covenant: to announce the coming of the Messiah. Now that he's arrived, the world needs to hear from a different kind of prophet. You and me. And here's where the false prophets come in. Jesus is warning his flock against those who pose as prophets of the New Covenant (pretend to be of the flock) but who do not do the will of the Father. Only those who do the will of the Father can be truly prophetic in His name. 

Typically, when we think of false prophets, we focus on those who are teaching heresy. Bishops, priests, religious, lay theologians, etc. who teach against the faith on some controversial theological issue. But if we are all prophets in virtue of baptism, then all of us are capable of being false to our prophetic mission. And what is that mission? To be a prophet of the New Covenant, to be a herald of Christ in 2013 means exactly what it did in 113 AD, 1313 AD, and 1913 AD. It means going to all nations and peoples and proclaiming the arrival of the Christ and the advent of his kingdom. It means courageously proclaiming God's freely given mercy to sinners. It means giving witness to our own encounters with mercy; our own clashes with sin and death; our own healing from unclean spirits, and the freedom we enjoy from the necessities of sin. Jesus says that we will know true prophets by their good fruits. What good fruits are you producing and harvesting? Are you spreading mercy, forgiveness, genuine charity, and peace to those around you? Or are you causing conflict, dissension, and spreading despair? We've been warned: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

Too often our culture approves of some sin we enjoy and that gives us reason enough to continue in the sin. I could list them off for you: sex outside of marriage, same-sex “marriage,” gossip, racism, immodest dress, cursing, the use of artificial contraception, and many others. Each of these is approved in some way by the world. Why? Because each one causes strife btw the children of God. Each one of these directly defies our Father's will for our good, so, of course, the world approves. Our tasks as prophets is not to go around wagging righteous fingers, or condemning unrepentant sinners. Our task is to SHOW sinners (including ourselves) that sin is now just an option; that is, none of us has to sin b/c we have been freed by Christ. If our lives look like drudgery, if we sound like heartbroken donkeys at prayer, then we have failed in our prophetic mission. We don't have to be happy-clappy airheads. But we can at the very least look and sound reasonable pleased that Christ died for us so that we don't have to go to hell if we don't want to. That's the bare minimum required when it comes to displaying our good fruits. That we are joyful. Pleased. Reasonably happy. That we are prophets with a most excellent message to share: Christ is come! And his kingdom isn't far behind. 
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  1. "We don't have to be happy-clappy airheads. But we can at the very least look and sound reasonably pleased that Christ died for us so that we don't have to go to hell if we don't want to."

    You said that out-loud? In front of people? Wow.

    I rather enjoyed this one, in a perverse, somewhat masochistic, kind of way. :-)

    1. I was in a mood yesterday for some reason. Slept wrong again.