The opening admonition of today’s Gospel from Matthew – “Beware of false prophets” – is a great follow-up to the discussion we had during the last session of the book group at Our Lady of Lourdes, the focus of which has been Jack Levison’s Fresh Air: The Holy Spirit for an Inspired Life.
We had been talking last evening about Levison’s discussion of the Christian community at Antioch, which he described as characterized by a love of learning, an ear for prophesy, and right practices. In that context we talked about what it means for us to have receptivity to the word of prophets – not always easy since prophets don’t always tell us what we want to hear. And, let’s face it, sometimes true prophets seem downright crazy. They are often pushed aside (or worse) by those in power.
But, as Levison also observes, “Where there is prophesy, there must be a discernment process to know if the prophetic word is true.” He quotes Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians: “Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything.” The approach of the community in Antioch to discernment included prayer as well as “a good dose of common sense.” We talked a little about what that discernment entails for us.
“Beware of false prophets” is a reminder of the need to discernment. But it is equally important that the fear of false prophets not cause us to close our ears to the voices of the true prophets in our midst. We need to be as receptive as the community at Antioch, standing ready to hear the words of God through the prophets.
My gratitude to all those who participated in our book discussion. I will be looking forward to gathering with folks at Lourdes for another book discussion group in the fall; our plan is James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage.