Matthew 7, 15-20: False Prophets
The Jewish people know what false prophets are. Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, Paul and Jesus encountered and warned against these prophets. False rulers and prophets were called in those days, wolves. Thus, Jesus says that He is sending out his disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves, and that the Good Shepherd protects his flocks from the wolves (Matthew 10, 6 & John 10,12). Paul warned the elders, “Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20,29).
Chapters 11 and 12 of the Didache which appeared in 100 AD, contains certain regulations regarding prophets. It says that a prophet shall be honored and welcomed in one’s home. He can remain for a day or two, but if he remains for three days, he is a false prophet. He must never ask for anything, except bread; if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. They can claim that their preaching is from the Holy Spirit, but there is a clear test: their character. Every prophet claims to teach the truth; if he does not do what he teaches, he is a false prophet.
Reflecting on the Gospel today, I came to realize that I am a false prophet. If the acid test of a real and true prophet is his authenticity and his character, when he teaches what he preaches, then, I too am false. Because I know there are many things in my character that needs reform and I am still far away from being a perfect and authentic Christian. But the Gospel challenges the falsities and lies in our lives and in our relationships; and it invites us to get ‘real’ before God and to enter into an honest relationship with Him and with others. We must level with God from where we truly are and present to Him what we are really about. Our relationship with God --- and with others --- is above all a relationship that is honest. Even the fears, the angers, the disappointments that we find embarrassing to admit, are real; responding to God honestly keeps the relationship alive, and opens one to God’s further revelation.
In relationships, on the other hand, the friendship collapses when people try to behave differently from how they really feel. For example, there is this man who kept on saying that he wants to be free and he could not pray and bring himself to mass, until he was able to say to God and to himself that he was unfaithful to his wife, and had been justifying his sin for months. It seems that when we want things kept hidden --- from people and from God --- we spent much of our energy hiding and lying. Nakakapagod magsinungaling o magkunwari!
Yet, God loves real people, as they are, warts and all. God loves us as we are, with all our dark places and unworthiness as Jesus loves the sinful woman at His feet, Peter after his denial, the thief in the crucifixion, or Judas even after his betrayal. Relationships thrive on reality and openness. In prayer, we get a good advice: Pray as you are, not as you’re not; Pray as you can, not as you can’t.
Furthermore, I also believe that people love real people. It is no wonder that the Gospel speaks against those who are false, those who live out a lie. A real prophet has a real relationship with God and a real relationship with people. Sprite says, “Magpakatotoo ka!”