Monday August 2, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 28:1-17) Gospel (St. Matthew 14:13-21)
In the first reading today, as the prophet Hananiah speaks the words to the people of Israel that within two years the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar is going to be broken, the prophet Jeremiah looks at him and says, “Normally, the prophets prophesy woe and war and pestilence, but you have prophesied peace.” And he says that the only way someone who prophesies peace can be demonstrated to have come from the Lord is when their prophecy is fulfilled.
Now if you do not have to do that with someone who preaches pestilence and war and woe, the question is why. That is because the difficult things can actually be mitigated. If the people turn from the evil they were doing, God is going to take away the punishment for what it is that they did. We can see that in extreme cases, for instance, like when Jonah had to go in and preach to the people of Nineveh and they turned from their evil ways; or when Ahab (one of the worst kings in the history of Israel) was doing all of the evil with his hideous wife Jezebel, and yet when suddenly he put on sackcloth and ashes, God said that the punishment He was going to inflict on Ahab would now wait until after Ahab had died because it was going to be on Ahab’s entire house. It would not come during Ahab’s life, which it was intended to do. And so it is simply a matter of turning the heart to be able to mitigate the punishments. When someone preaches that there is going to be evil and war and so on, that can be taken away if the people turn their hearts to God.
If, on the other hand, someone is going to preach peace, since that is going to be a gift from God because the people were doing what they were supposed to do anyway, the only way that is going to be demonstrated is if it happens. While the prophet who is prophesying the negative things does not necessarily have to have it demonstrated clearly because that can be mitigated, the one who prophesies the positive things is an entirely different situation – that has to be demonstrated by being fulfilled. That is the only way one would know that person is in fact a prophet of the Lord. Moses has told us the same thing back in the Book of Deuteronomy: that is the way to tell who is a real prophet and who is not. At the same time, God has spoken through His prophet Amos, and He has told us that He will not do anything on the earth without first showing it to His servants the prophets.
What we see is that there is quite a cost. If someone is prophesying false things, look at what happened to the prophet Hananiah. “God is going to take your life,” Jeremiah said, and that very year Hananiah died because he was giving false confidence to the people, preaching things that were not truly the Word of God, things that were much more pleasant to hear for the people but they were not the truth. So what we have to make sure we are about is, number one, not seeking these sorts of things, which many people wanting extraordinary abilities have done. They actually pray to God so they can be prophets or so they can do some other thing and then get themselves in all kinds of trouble for it. So, number one, you do not ask for something like that. Number two, if the Lord shows you some sort of extraordinary things, you make sure that you check it with somebody who is in a position of being your authority or superior so that whatever you speak or do is done in obedience and it is not going to be done on your own because that is the only way to assure that you are doing what is right. Then make sure that your own prayer is in great shape, because if it is not, you are going to wind up thinking you are doing something that is good, when in fact you are just going to be doing what you want to do or you are going to be duped by Satan into something that sounds real good but in fact is nothing but a lie. So those are the things we want to make sure of.
And with all kinds of people running around these days giving their little prophecies and telling us all the things that are supposed to happen, we need to be extremely careful about who we are going to listen to and who we think is really from God. Just because someone claims that they have something from God does not mean a thing. We need to be very, very cautious about who we are going to follow and who we are going to listen to because everybody and their brother these days thinks that they are hearing from Our Lord and Our Lady – and they are not. So we need to be very careful. Keep in mind that simple principle: If it is someone prophesying negative things, that can be mitigated; if it is someone prophesying positive things, that person’s prophecy will be proven only when it is fulfilled.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.