Beware of false prophets and false Christs

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

WE are reminded of this warning in that gospel episode where St. John the Baptist told his disciples to ask Christ if he truly was the “who is to come, or should we look for another?” (cfr. Lk 7,19)

And the response of Christ was classic. “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Lk 7,22-23)

Since we are patterned after Christ, we should expect that we would somehow share the prophetic, priestly and kingly powers of Christ. This obviously would be a work in progress in life, requiring a lifelong process that would involve a lot of things.

While each one of us can claim to be “another Christ,” if not “Christ himself,” we should not forget that we cannot yet be definitively, fully and immutably “another Christ” for as long as we are still living in this vale of tears, where we are still being tested.

We may manifest our identification with Christ to a greater or lesser degree. But we should avoid claiming to be fully Christ already, since we are still in some drama where we can expect some measure of success as well as failure in our effort to be “another Christ.”

We should be wary then when somebody would already claim that he is Christ himself. Obviously, we should still love and care for him. He is still a brother of ours. And if we have a chance to talk to him, we should try to explain things to him calmly and charitably.

In this, Christ himself warned us: “There shall arise false Christs and false prophets and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Mt 24,24) In another instance, he said: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” (Mt 7,15)

We have to be wary of these characters because the world is now awash with false prophets and false Christs. It even looks like we have an infestation. Whether we look at the fields of politics, business, the sciences, sports and entertainment, and yes, even in religion, we can readily find dishonest and corrupt leaders, false prophets and lying teachers.

In this life, we can only be disciples of Christ struggling, with God’s grace, to be like him. We may strive as best that we can to identify ourselves with him to such an extent that we can say “I am like Christ,” but we can never replace Christ himself. The fullness of our identification of Christ which we are expected and empowered to be, can only take place with and in Christ, but never replacing Christ.

As disciples and ambassadors of Christ, we can only do things always in reference to Christ and in the name of Christ, and never just on our own. And like Christ, we do things with humility, patience, charity and mercy, compatible with being precise in our teaching. We would know how to blend the exclusivity of truth with the inclusivity of charity.

We would know how to be both active and contemplative, bold and yet knowing how to pass unnoticed, teaching the truth always in charity.