Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18
The Jews knew all about false prophets who, throughout their history, had tried to lead them astray. Jeremiah came to blows with the false prophets who proclaimed ‘Peace, peace, but no peace came’ Jeremiah 6:14. Ezekiel called these false leaders and prophets ‘wolves that preyed on the poor, destroying their lives and stealing what was not theirs’ Ezekiel 22:27.
Matthew has Jesus calling the false prophets ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. There are many false prophets in our world today. Prophets of doom and gloom who live without hope and spread despair. There are national leaders, politicians, and providers of news and commentary who create division amongst people and then use this division to their own advantage. Influencers of fashionable merchandise preying on younger peoples ‘need to belong’ through acceptance of false values that don’t lead to life in Christ.
‘By their fruits, you will know them’. Matthew 7:15. Jesus is not talking about one bad crop or one bad season. He is referring to the gradual decline in a tree’s production over time. Trees commence their downward journey with infections or insect attack from the inside. By the time these infections are recognised, the tree is almost dead. Should it be cut down?
In another parable of Jesus, the gardener asked the orchard owner for one more year to give the tree special treatment to see if it will produce its full crop. This special treatment is understanding, encouragement, spiritual nourishment and tender care and effort.
We all come across wolves in sheep’s clothing during our lifetime. The gospel message helps us identify them by their deeds and call them back to the truth.
Our orchard, which contains ‘the fruits of the spirit’, can be contaminated by the weeds of the world; Jesus calls it ‘darnel’. To avoid this spiritual problem, we need to carry out a regular examination of the core of our life, our conscience, and make the necessary changes to our worldly relationships and attitudes.
Fr Peter Addicoat CP is parish priest and community leader of our St Joseph’s parish/community in Hobart, Tasmania.