The First Reading tells us of Jeremiah who prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and Hananiah who prophesied of the deliverance of Jerusalem. Jeremiah did not argue with Hananiah but agreed with him. Then Jeremiah said this: The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet. There are today, many people who speak or promise prosperity, God’s love and God’s mercy while neglecting to proclaim the consequence of rejecting God. Their message is one that centers on their listener instead of God. They are like Hananiah who proclaimed freedom and salvation, and made people believe in a lie. These false prophets will face the consequence of their actions. In the case of Hananiah, he died that year as proof of rebellion against the Lord.
So how will we know whether a person is a true prophet or not? Jeremiah gave the answer: when what he said comes true. Jeremiah’s prophesy concerning Hananiah came true, proving Jeremiah is the true prophet and not Hananiah. We also pray as the Responsorial Psalm tells us: put false ways far from me; and graciously teach me your law. We ask God to teach us his Word so we will know the Truth. The Psalm also gives us a second criteria for determining true prophets: let those who fear you turn to me so that they may know your decrees. The purpose of the true prophet is to lead people to know God’s Truth.
We see this in the Gospel today where the disciples struggle to go to the other side of the sea without Jesus. They tried the whole night and could not because of the strong winds and waves that prevent them from doing so. Yet, in the early morning, Jesus walks on water and approaches them. The disciples were afraid but Jesus identifies himself. Peter calls out to Jesus and tells Jesus to command me to come to you on the water. Peter also puts a test to the Lord, by saying: if it is you… This statement tells us something about Peter’s prayer to Jesus: Peter believed, if the person he sees is not Jesus, Jesus will prevent that person from commanding Peter to come over the water. But Jesus did call Peter to come and when Peter stepped out of the boat, he walked on water.
Today’s readings remind us of the importance of discerning the message we hear. Some will quote what Jesus said to the devil: you shall not test the Lord your God to mean that if we attempt to discern what we hear, we lack faith and do not trust in the Lord. This is not what this verse means. This verse means do not provoke your God by forcing his hand to do what you want.
But these forget what 1 John 4:1 tells us do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits if they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. It is our responsibility to discern what we hear. We cannot believe just because someone in the Church hierarchy says it. We must test all spirits. How? By learning about our faith. We cannot neglect our salvation because we are lazy to learn about our faith.
Lord, let me have that immense love for your Word. May I never neglect to study your Word. Also reveal to me the false prophets who speak words you did not command, who mislead people with lies. Frustrate their plans Lord and do not let their plans prosper.