16 July 2007

False Prophets, False Promises

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Following the lectionary for "Gregorian Use" parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the Gospel reading was St. Matthew 7.15-21.

False prophets make false promises. And false promises are false because they offer nothing real, nothing lasting. They promise not to gratify your soul, but to gratify your flesh. They promise not to deliver you from this world’s evil and death, but to help you embrace temptation and sin. They promise great rewards not to those who sacrifice themselves for others, but to those who sacrifice to improve themselves. They promise not to bring you closer to your Lord God, but to draw you more and more inside yourself. And so false prophets “promise a wisdom and a knowledge of the truth which they do not possess.” (St Augustine) In doing so, they set before our eyes the goal of making the best of life in this world. Or they urge us to disdain this world in favor a world without form, and void; a world that is no world; a world that is the product of vain imagination.

Truth says that we should be aware of false prophets with their empty promises. For they come not to comfort, but to devour. They falsely promise a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Prov 16.25) And so they come not to help us in the Way and strengthen us along the Way, but to distract, to discourage and to dispirit us in the Way that leads to through death to Life, through sacrifice to Love, through evil to Good Himself. Truth warns us; yet His desire is not to scare us. Neither does He want us to lose heart. Rather, He wants us to see clearly the Way the Spirit gives us to walk, the Way which Our Lord Jesus is, the Way that leads into the passionate embrace of Our Father. This Way is not easy. Truth Himself says as much when He tells us not to judge, not to condemn, not to get angry, not to make vows rashly and not to follow our wandering eye. And we know the Way is not easy when Truth says that we should love our enemies, give to those in need, and fear nothing except losing Him.

Again, Our Lord’s desire is not to scare us off, but to let us know how it is. Forewarned is forearmed. And so He wants us to know what deceits the devil will use, what schemes the world will employ, what pull our own flesh will exert—and also, what false promises false prophets will make. Resist these, Our Lord says. Abstain from that which takes your eyes off Me. Refrain from that which uses your body not for My glory. Defy that which speaks against Me and My promises. And avoid at all costs that which disrupts your life with Me.

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