The True and False Prophets Among Us
2nd Sunday of Advent
December 6, 2020
What was it about John the Baptist that made people want to go out to the desert to see him in droves? John must have cut a striking figure, with his camel-hair garment and leather belt. He preached and baptized in the Judean wilderness, an area that no sane person would want to take up permanent residence in. John was the genuine article, a real Jewish prophet come to life at a time when prophecy had not been heard of for hundreds of years. His diet was “locusts and wild honey”, which was the biblical way of saying that John the Baptist was the genuine article.
What is the difference between a true and a false prophet? A genuine prophet is not so much someone who foretells the future as it is one whose words are right on the money, a sure guide to God’s will in a world of confusion. We have to be careful which voices we are listening to in this world; many who claim to be sure guides are actually leading their followers to the edge of a cliff. They tell people what they want to hear, instead of challenging them to be different than what everyone else is doing and saying.
A genuine prophet will challenge his listeners; they are not afraid to speak the truth, even though it may hurt, though they try to do so in a loving way. A real prophet encourages people to greatness, to self-sacrifice, to virtue, goodness and purity. A genuine prophet helps us to have a long term vision of our future, and is not afraid to call the listeners to real conversion. A genuine prophet is not out for personal gain.
False prophets are just the opposite; they tell people what they want to hear, promising many things that often turn out to be not true. Their ultimate goal is power, money and influence for themselves. A false prophet appeals only to our lower nature, our passions. Self-sacrifice for the good of others is usually not on the agenda either. False prophets encourage self-centeredness, greed, selfishness and short-term visioning at the expense of long-term gain. False guides lead us to choose sin and justify it.
We must pay particular attention to worldly media content. Much of what is offered is blatantly un-Christian, the ethics and vision offered overtly pagan and self-serving. A person who follows genuine church teaching, such as the Catechism and the Word of God will be able to avoid blind guides that eventually lead us to spiritual ruin.
A real prophet is countercultural. The crowd is usually wrong (see Jesus’ trial, for example). If my spirituality and belief system change every time the worldly winds change, it is probably not the Spirit that is blowing us around. This world does have genuine prophets among us, but we must make the effort to go see them, like John the Baptist, or ask them into our homes and not accept every voice that claims it is true.