“Beware”. The word is usually encountered upon entering a Halloween haunted house. In today’s gospel our Lord uses this emphatic warning to alert us to the false prophets all around us who are always the greatest threat to the Church and its teachings
“You will know them by their fruits”, Mt 7: 16. The message of false prophets is so successfully propagated because people are like drops of water, they seek the path of least resistance. “That Old Time Religion” was way too confining and too much work! They want to be free to do as they wish and so they seek out a belief system that has no consequences or demanding effort. We are living in a post-Christian/Judeo world where Secular Humanism and Prosperity Gospels are some of the more glaring bad fruits the false prophets promote. The message is simply a narcissistic self-delusion of grandeur where it is smugly assumed that the modern intellect is superior in knowledge than those who came before, as if they were the first that believed this always modern fallacy. Because of their astonishing understanding of the universe, past spiritual writers and Christian theologians can be rejected and abandoned as intellectual peasants whose time is long been over. St Paul recognized this parochial thought pattern even in the time of Christ. He mocks these self-professed intellectual superiors by saying, “Professing to be wise, they become fools”, Romans 1:22. Their self-possessed beliefs gives rise to a system where there is no God, and the concept of human worth is achieved without religious dogma, structure or requirements. Human value is recognized by adhering to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
Perhaps some can remember a 60’s era t-shirt which highlighted the problem of using human nature as a value judgement criteria: Emblazoned on the chest of the shirt in a bold, Gothic font, (which best resembled the title card for the movie, “The Bells of St Mary’s”) was the phrase: “Do Unto Others, Then Split!”
Since the beginning of our species, we have been programmed to place the needs of our tribe above all others, even to the detriment of other tribes. We are driven to provide for ourselves and our loved ones without regard for others. Charity, empathy and compassion, (which we used to call Humanity) are concepts that have their root in our faiths and belief in God. These concepts have no place in a Post Christian/Judeo world.
A true prophet is one who leads by example, word, and action, back to our Father. “You will know false prophets by their words”. It is they who promote the idea of a Universe without need of an uncreated creator. They no longer need the protection of sheep’s clothing. The false prophet’s secular thinking is now more accepted as correct by society than any Christian or Jewish premise. While they might be college professors, members of the media, government officials or classroom teachers, false prophets can still be identified by their words because they do not lead back to God. Bad trees can only produce bad fruit. And whatever their status, they must be identified and confronted, both for their own benefit, and for our world.
Ray Alonzo is the father of three children, grandfather of two, and husband to Jan for 45 years. He is a USN Vietnam Veteran, and a 1969 graduate of Mother of Good Counsel Passionist Prep Seminary. Ray currently serves on the Passionist Alumni Council.