In the first reading at daily Mass for Monday of the 27th Week, St. Paul warns of perhaps the most damaging evil facing the Church: dissension from within.
I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel (not that there is another). But there are some who are disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed!(Galatians 1:6-8)
St. Paul says that such false teachers pervert the Gospel. They once received it but now distort it. Sadly, there are many today, clerics among them, who mislead people into thinking that what God calls sin is no big deal or is something to celebrate. They are false teachers, false prophets. Let’s ponder this troubling truth in three ways:
There are false prophets.
Here are some of the many passages in which Scripture warns that deceivers, scoffers, and false prophets would inevitably arise:
- Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. … Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Mat 7:15, 19-20).
- I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth to draw the disciples away after them (Acts 20:30-31).
- And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray …. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand (Mat 24:11, 24-25).
- But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell … (2 Peter 2:1-4).
- There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability (2 Peter 3:16-17).
- But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit (Jude 1:17-23).
- Children, it is the last hour; and just as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their departure made it clear that none of them belonged to us (1 John 2:18-19).
Of particular concern are false prophets who come from within.
There is a special subtlety in this kind of deceiver, especially if he wears a collar or priestly robes; even more if he is of the rank of bishop. Great harm has been inflicted by wayward clergy over the centuries. The grief is especially deep because the faithful have rightly been encouraged to love and listen to the clergy.
Both Jesus and St. Paul call them wolves because they devour and scatter the flock. St. Paul’s language also indicates an especially sharp pain caused by this sort of betrayal. Other scriptures affirm this deep pain:
- For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart (Psalm 55:12-15).
- Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).
- Even my trusted friends, watching for my fall, say, “Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him and take our revenge on him” (Jer 20:21).
- The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with Me will betray Me (Mat 26:23).
- Look! The hand of My betrayer is with Me, even at the table (Luke 22:21).
- Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48)
Yes, there is a special grief when error and sin come from within the Church. That the world hates and derides us is difficult enough, but internal wounds are the most painful of all.
Our Lady spoke to St. Agnes Sasagawa in Akita, Japan (an approved apparition) and said with sadness,
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres … churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God (Message of Oct 13, 1973).
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