Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Promises, Promises. Who Can We Trust?

Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

June 22, 2011

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17)


Lord, we are so easily led astray. Help us to put our faith in you and yours alone. Grant us the wisdom to distinguish the wolves from the sheep in our everyday lives.


When I was in my 20’s, I lived in a small town in southern Delaware. One day a very handsome young man moved into the area. He had gorgeous blue eyes, was very articulate and knew the Scriptures inside and out. Things were looking promising, until one of my friends’ mothers called me early one morning. She said she was embarrassed to be calling but came right out with her question – had I given this person any money? What? No, I’ve never given him any money. What makes you ask? She said he had just tried to convince her husband to co-sign a $10,000 personal loan. That gave me pause for thought! A few afternoons later, a knock came on my front door. It was the pastor of the largest church in the town. He said, Am I ever glad to see you! I was afraid you had married that young man. Marry him? I said. I’ve only gone out with him a couple of times. Well, he got married over the weekend and I was afraid you were the bride. It turned out that he was some sort of con artist, marrying women, living off them and running through their savings, then leaving and moving on to his next victim. Did I ever feel like an idiot! But that’s the thing about wolves in sheep’s clothing. Some of their costumes are awfully good!

Jesus knew that. In today’s Gospel reading, he warns the disciples to be on the lookout for false prophets. They’ll look good, and their messages will be appealing, but beware of what lies beneath their outward appearances. They will distort Jesus’ teachings and try to lead his followers astray.

This hasn’t changed much since the first century. There are still people twisting Jesus’ words and leading their followers in the wrong direction. Channel surfing one Sunday, I came upon a “prosperity gospel” preacher, preaching to his congregation that God wants them to be rich. I don’t know what Bible he reads, but where does that leave all the poor, sick and outcast that Jesus liked to befriend and hang out with and asked us to compassionately care for? A person’s financial status is hardly an accurate barometer of the solidity of their faith.

Or there was the rapture preacher who recently told all of us that life as we know it would come to an end on May 21 at 6:00 pm. Get ready! We’re in the last days. He must not be familiar with the parables where we are told that no one knows the day or the hour when Christ will return.

So how do we protect ourselves from these predators disguised as friends? Jesus says we can know them by their fruits. No matter how fancy the costume, a wolf can masquerade as a sheep for only so long and then, eventually, he or she will instinctively do something wolf-like. But discerning the good from the bad is sometimes difficult, because the fruits are not always immediately apparent.

In Cursillo, we say we are called to make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ. When we set out to do that, what fruits do others see in our lives that make us credible witnesses to the Gospel?