Listening To Jesus &, Paying Attention Only To His Authentic Prophets
Rdgs: (1st: Deut 18, 15-20; Ps 94, 1-9; 2nd: 1Cor 7, 32-35: Gos: Mk 1, 21-28)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In view of the myriad of “prophetic voices” that spring up daily “in the Lord’s name” and for different motives in our time thus leaving us exploited and confused, on this 4th Sunday of ordinary time, the church encourages us to celebrate and listen attentively to Jesus Christ, the prophet and teacher who speaks with authority. She also, reminds us of the consequences of not listening to him and his authentic prophets. On the other hand she also reminds us of the consequences of uttering falsehood in the Lord’s name in order to deceive anyone.
In the midst of confusions, uncertainties, hardships, sicknesses, joblessness and all kinds of problems that afflict humanity, who should we listen to, or from where should we expect help except from, “the Lord who made heaven and earth!” (Ps 121, 2). Unfortunately, when we are overwhelmed by these circumstances the tendency is for us look elsewhere, and not to listen to the Lord. Also, another tendency is for many false prophets and teachers to spring up and claim to be the oracles of God. It is often said that poverty and grave difficulties are mind benders. In situations like these according to Karl Marx: “religion becomes the opium of the masses,” who are impatiently in search of quick solutions to their problems. Difficult situations can break the will of a person and thus give room for exploitations and manipulations by false prophets and teachers. This is one of the greatest sicknesses of our society today and unfortunately it will continue to be in as much as we refuse to listen only to Jesus Christ and his authentic prophets.
Again, in a situation like ours today where there are many “self styled prophetic voices” clamoring to be heard and claiming to speak in the name of the Lord, what do we do? My dear friends today in our first reading from Deuteronomy God promised us a great prophet and He has fulfilled this promise in Christ. On his own part, Christ has raised up for himself authentic ministers to bear his prophetic word. So, all we need to do is simply to draw close to Jesus, listen to him and to his authentic prophets. If we pay attention to him, we will not be deceived by false prophets anymore no matter our circumstances. This is why, God warns us through Moses: “Those who will not listen to the words of the prophet, the man who does not listen to my words that he speaks shall be answerable.” In other words, we must not neglect the teachings of Jesus and his authentic and faithful witnesses. On the other hand, Moses warns us to refrain from being false prophets and from false claims of speaking in the name of the Lord: “…But the prophet who says in my name what I did not say or, who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.”
Today’s gospel continues to highlight the ministry of Jesus the great prophet and teacher. As the promised prophet, Mark tells us that: “His teaching made a deep impression on them and unlike the scribes and Pharisees, he taught with authority.” This is one distinguishing mark between a true and a fake prophet. This is because, “the word of God is alive and active sharper than two edged sword” (Heb 4, 12). It cannot touch someone without leaving an impression or calming the raging storm and elements in the person’s life. The word of God when delivered with authority from a true prophet carries its weight. On the contrary, when it is employed as a means of manipulation and exploitation, it has negative consequences on the false prophet as well as on his followers.
Thus, we must be very mindful of the wolves in sheep’s clothing parading as prophets and oracles of God (Mtt 7, 15). This is very important, because our society has been infested and besieged by many of such prophets and teachers. They employ every means including diabolical ones in order to attract the poor as well as the rich, desperate ladies searching for husbands and babies, desperate youths searching for prosperity, and all kinds of innocent and helpless people, in order to indoctrinate and exploit them. Unfortunately they all speak “in the name of the Lord”, and with “rhetorical authority”. They have taken over the jobs of the witch doctors and diviners, and this is what Very Rev. Fr. Raymond Arazu, C.S.Sp refers to as “Priest Craft.” They whip up spiritual sentiments in the minds and families of their victims in order to remain relevant, in order to attract more people to themselves, and of course, in order to sale their articles. So instead of directing people to Christ, they direct them to buy more “holy candles” they specially designed and imported from China; to drink more “holy oil” bottled under the most unhygienic conditions in their closets without minding the health conditions of their “clients”, especially the cholesterol patients; to “blessed” stickers, handkerchiefs, face caps, aprons, t-shirts, pamphlets, etcetera. They act more through these articles they sale before and after their programs than through the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, they like to maintain power, territorial and financial autonomy (Amos 7, 12- 15), and of course, must take up titles that evoke awe or convey a sense of mystery.
In light of all these, how do we know a prophet that speaks for God? If what the prophet says comes true! This seems like a good answer, but does not answer all the questions because it is not always the case and true. This is why Paul reminds us that: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11, 14). At times, their predictions come true, and when it fails, the simplest excuse is: “God has changed his mind as he did over Nineveh” (Jon 3, 1-10). However, the sad news is that an authentic prophet can also err, when he loses focus, becomes over entangled with the mundane, gets carried away by pride and, of course, when he stops listing to Jesus Christ and the church who called him. In contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus taught with personal authority which was based neither on mundane credentials nor his ability to cite precedents, but on the Spirit that descended on him at his baptism (1:10). His only credential is that he is the Son of God (1:1). So, his authority comes from his father. Hence, a true prophet should rely principally on the Spirit of God and not only on articles and precedents. Brethren, it is important we discern every spirit and word of these prophets and try to match them with the word of God in the scriptures. Whatever is against the plain sense of the scripture, or which gives countenance to, or promotes sin, unhealthy life style or, even negative and shallow spirituality, obviously cannot be from God. Let us continue to listen to Jesus and, pay attention only to his authentic prophets who speak for God because, to ignore their calls is the same as ignoring God. Therefore, “O that today you listen to his voice; harden not your hearts.”
Peace be with You!