When you read the book of Jeremiah you may be struck by the number of false prophets who delivered exactly the opposite message God sent through Jeremiah. In fact many of the true prophets of the Old Testament had to compete with false prophets. So often the message these false prophets issued was exactly what the king wanted to hear and the result was disaster. In the case of Jeremiah Jerusalem was destroyed rather than saved by surrender to the Babylonians or Chaldeans as the book calls them.
This makes me wonder. Are we plagued by false prophets today and if so who are these false prophets? What is their message today? Are their genuine prophets today? Do we ignore them the same way Jeremiah was ignored? There are definitely a lot of people claiming the gift of prophecy today on the Internet and there are also a lot of people who claim to speak for God or the Church involved in politics. Who really speaks for God? How do we decide?
A good rule of thumb is to study the message in light of Scripture and Church tradition. As Hebrews 13:8 say “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow”. His message will not change. What was immoral will not become moral and what was moral will not become immoral. Anything that contradicts the teaching of Scripture does not come from God.
At the same time anything that contradicts the teaching of the Church over the course of centuries will not be from God. Modern arguments by Catholic groups for the right of Choice or for gay marriage are examples of false teachings or prophets. I know many conservative Catholics would easily agree but what about some of the conservative positions related to immigration, the poor or materialism? Is it not possible that we need to examine these positions in the light of Scripture?
Most conservative Catholics would consider Pope John Paul II to be a modern-day prophet. They look at his strong defense of life and defense of the family but do they realize that he wrote a great deal critical of both communism and capitalism, that he considered materialism to be more dangerous to souls than communism? How many of us heard him when he spoke for the poor and exploited of the world? How many of us only heard what we wanted to hear?
Do we realize that along with their worship of false gods like Baal God was critical of the Israelites greed and exploitation of the poor? He talks about how they ignored his law for the freeing of slaves every seventh year in Jeremiah. In Amos they are condemned for their false scales as they cheat the widowed. Greed was one of the things He condemned them for? How many of our modern-day prophets on the American scene truly reflect this? So often we get caught up in politics and support one party over the other when in reality all political parties have deviated from the teaching of God. We can not blindly support either party but must examine each position and issue in light of Scripture and the teachings of the Church.
If you look at the Internet you will find a host of “prophecies” claimed to be from God. How do we decide what is true? Some of them make sense in terms of Scripture. In the Old Testament Israel was punished for it sins and its refusal to repent. Isn’t it logical that modern man would also suffer the consequences of its sins? Isn’t it also logical that God would send people in and out of the Church to call us to repentance?
But isn’t it also logical that God would want the focus to be on the message of repentance and His mercy rather than the messenger? Didn’t God promise mercy even in the book of Jeremiah if they repented? Didn’t He promise to spare the destruction of Jerusalem if they listened to Him and surrendered? Didn’t He promise to spare their lives? Didn’t He promise to remember the Covenant and bring back His people after seventy years and didn’t He do that? Didn’t He save Judah and Jerusalem from the Assyrians when they repented?
I sometimes wonder if these modern-day prophecies are truly reflective of God. There can be no doubt that modern humanity is a sinful people. There can be no doubt of our need of repentance? You have to wonder if we haven’t reached the point where we may be worse than the people of Noah’s time. But do these prophecies on the Internet yield fruit? Do they bring us to repentance and the Sacraments? Do they lead us to prayer and trust in God or do they lead us to stockpile supplies and weapons?
If you look at the messages of Mary which have been ruled valid all of them lead to repentance and conversion to a deeper prayer life and more frequent reception of the Sacraments. They lead to a greater trust in God and a more simple holier way of life. Does this not fit with what God has done in the past? Isn’t this what God would want? Isn’t this what the Church has been calling for over twenty centuries? Don’t the approved messages of Mary always point to Jesus and the Holy Trinity? Do any of the so-called prophets on the Internet do the same? Do they lead people to repent, to conversion and a more frequent reception of the Sacraments or do they simply lead to fear and selfishness?
Lord, help us to recognize the true prophets, those that call us like Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to repentance and conversion. Help us to ignore those who seek to pull people along the wrong path or to draw attention to themselves. Help us to truly repent and receive the Sacraments as often as possible. Amen