In the Gospel today, Matthew tells us when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth, where he grew up and settled in Capernaum which was a busy town by the Sea. From there, he began to proclaim: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in synagogues and proclaiming the good news. As he did this, he also healed people. As a result great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Jesus was gaining a lot of followers not only around Galilee, but even in Jerusalem and even beyond it.
During the time of Jesus, the Jews were back in their land but they were still occupied by Rome. They were not free which means God has not forgiven them of their sins of idolatry which caused the destruction of the Temple and their exile. When Jesus proclaimed repentance, he was telling them to change their way of thinking. In the feast yesterday, the chief priests and scribes knew where the King of the Jews will be born. And when the Magi told them he is born. What was their reaction? They and all Jerusalem were frightened because Herod was frightened. They were willing to just let things be, as long as they are safe from Herod’s wrath. This shows us the kind of worship they had at that time. It is one that is based on convenience, of safety and of compromise.
This is not true worship of God, which is contrary to what Jesus taught, that worship has to be in Spirit and in Truth. It is not blind obedience to the Law that gives life. It is obedience to God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, that gives life. The Temple leaders obeyed the Law strictly hoping this will save them. But Jesus tells them (John 5:39-40): Search the scriptures, for you think in them to have life everlasting; and the same are they that give testimony of me. And you will not come to me that you may have life.
The First Reading tells us: do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. Many look for meaning in life through self-help books, through self-centered meditation methods. Some even think they will find life by memorizing Scripture or the Catechism. These will not give life. There are also many false prophets who claim to be Catholics, but in truth, teach only their own ideas or opinions, which most often lead people away from life instead of giving them life.
John tells us: by this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God… Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
If you hear teachers or preachers who claim they speak the truth, test them. People are not Catholics just because they say so. It is by what they say that we will find out. This is why it is critical to learn our faith. There is no excuse for not knowing our faith. Those who teach what the Church has taught since the time of the Apostles are from God, while those who come up with innovative explanations that twist the truth have the spirit of error.
One can disagree with what the Church teaches, AS LONG AS, there is a sincere desire to search for why the Truth the Catholic Church teaches. If one sincerely searches for the Truth, one will find it. But if one says I do not agree with what the Church teaches, so I will disregard it, be careful, this is the spirit of the antichrist John warns about. This is idolatry because that person makes himself god. They are in error and heading for eternal death.
Lord, I want to find meaning in life. Help me to believe what you say and what the Catholic Church has taught since the time of the Apostles. This is the only guarantee that I am not in error. There are many antichrists who preach error. Expose them Lord and let me not fall into their error.