DO NOT LISTEN TO THE “SWEET GOSPEL” OF SATAN!
First Reading: Nahum 2:1,3,3:1-3,6-7
Responsorial Psalm: Deuteronomy 32:35-36,39,41
Gospel Reading: Matthew 16:24-28
It is so shameful today that many who call themselves “Christians” are adhering to the “gospel” that came out of the devil’s mouth – this is known as the prosperity gospel. The gospel of prosperity is the kind of gospel first preached by the devil himself. After showing Christ all the kingdoms and riches of this world, the devil said to him: “All this will I give you if you bow down and worship me.” (Mt. 4:9; Lk. 4:7). On the social media today, it is common to see a post like: “if you hit the like button, say amen and share, God would bless you and make you prosperous within one week, and if you do not, then your life would be miserable.” As a result, thousands of so-called Christians would start liking, commenting, and sharing the post. More often than not, the highest liked posts on the social media today are those that support prosperity or wealth acquisition through the gospel, and also what the “worldly majority” wants to hear in the name of religion. We live in an era where false and controversial messages are preached, and once a biblical passage is added, the gullible ones become very satisfied with it and assist in propagating it; after all, it is coming from a ‘man of God’ who has ‘proven’ that the Bible supports it. What exactly is wrong with today’s Christianity and its adherents?! What do people think Christianity is? Jesus died so that we could be rich, have material wealth and enjoy the world? So that life could be easy? NO! Jesus died so that we can have eternal salvation, and this salvation is achievable through a rough, rugged, narrow and difficult path usually known as “The Way of the Cross,” as Christ beautifully puts it in today’s gospel reading.
After Peter’s profession of faith in Jesus, affirming His identity as the Messiah and Son of the living God, Jesus goes on to indicate the painful nature of his messianism, how he would suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. We are told that the same Peter opposed Jesus’ statement and Jesus rebuked him saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” (cf. Mt 16:16-17,21-23). After this, Jesus goes ahead to speak of the fate of those who intend to follow Him as we hear in today’s gospel reading. The fate of the disciples will not be different from that of the Master, as he says in today’s gospel reading: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In other words, if we must be Christians, we must be disposed to experience suffering, persecution, rejection, and even death, just as Christ (whom we follow) experienced it. Christ succinctly makes it known that his path is one that leads to the Cross – the narrow gate (cf. Mt. 7:13) as opposed to the “wide and broad gate” that leads to destruction.
Unfortunately, it seemed that many Christians are not comfortable with this path of Christ. They are not willing to carry their crosses and follow Christ; they shut their ears from listening to the message of the cross – suffering, persecution, rejection, death, etc., just as Peter earlier reacted against Christ and was rebuked as “satan.” Satan hates the message of the cross but loves the pleasures of the world; as such, he wishes to lure many to listen to the prosperity gospel that promises them wealth and the pleasures of life. It is even quite scandalous that false teachers who claim to be ‘men of God’ are the ones leading the people away from God and introducing them to satan by preaching the ‘prosperity gospel’ through compulsory tithing, seed sowing, first fruits, etc. They instil fear into the hearts of their followers and make them believe that giving their money to their Church is a sure way of getting prosperity and wealth in return from God and not doing so would result to judgement and condemnation. They seem to forget that the irreconcilable contradiction between prosperity gospel and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.” And in today’s gospel, Christ says: “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?” at this, we can also say that those who adhere to the prosperity gospel shall end up like the arrogant, cruel, oppressive, and unjust Assyrians of today’s first reading whom God used to discipline the Israelites but failed to repent of their evil ways because they felt they were too powerful and influential to be defeated. Their unfortunate end tells the story – the destruction of Nineveh.
Dearest friends in Christ, are we willing to carry our crosses without reservation in following Christ? Are we willing to persevere in the face of hardships for the sake of the Kingdom of God or do we immediately lose hold of the gospel values and run after prosperity when trials come? Do we immediately abandon our faith all because of acquiring money? We are called today to stop listening to the ‘unfortunate gospel’ of prosperity that turns us away from the truth. The prosperity gospel movement is related to the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early Church. Paul and the other apostles identified these men and women who propagated heresies as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them. In the same manner, I urge you, my dear friends in Christ to stop listening to the ‘sweet gospel’ of satan; that is, run away from the men and women of our time who propagate the prosperity gospel and embrace the true gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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