05 July 2009

What does it mean to be a prophet?

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: Ez 2:2-5; Ps 123:1-2, 2, 3-4; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6

In the Gospel story today, Jesus went back to his hometown after attaining relative fame as a teacher and miracle-worker. But instead of warm acceptance, he was rejected by his town mates, prompting him to quote a probably well-known saying during his time: "A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house" (Mark 6,4). In the First Reading, the Prophet Ezekiel wrote about how he was called by God and sent to the “rebellious house” of Israel.

So what does it mean to be a prophet?

1. To be a prophet is to speak the word of God.

2 Peter 1,20-21: “Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God.”

To be a prophet is…
to be seized by the power of God;
to be sent on a mission;
to speak the Word of God.

The word of God is never a matter of personal ruminations or philosophical conclusions or private opinions. Speaking the word of God always comes from the prompting of the Spirit of God.

2. To be a prophet is to take sacrifices… knowing that God will make them all worth it.

2 Chronicles 24,19: “Prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, though the people would not listen to their warnings.”

To be a prophet is…
to risk disappointment and unpopularity... but assured of victory;
to risk pain and suffering... but assured of consolation;
to risk even one’s life... but assured of living life fully.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “God calls us not to be successful, but to be faithful. Leave the long term success to God, but do what you are called to do.”

Here is an increasingly common case: A mother would come to me confessing how it pains her to see her son/daughter living-in with a partner, or just civilly married. She has been trying so hard to convince them, to no avail. After offering words of comfort and assurance, I would then ask: “What about the other family members?” The common answer: “They don’t care.”

To be a prophet is to care if sins are being committed.
To be a prophet is to mind if people are going the wrong way.
To be a prophet is to be concerned if injustice is being done.

And so, you will hear the Church speaking prophetically against abuses of power, destruction of the environment, extrajudicial killings, cheating in the elections, etc. You will find the Church promoting land reform, good governance, better education, etc.

A case in point: the Church’s pro-life stand. Many people suggest that the Church should soften its stand; that the Church should not interfere with the State in controlling population.

It’s not about regulating what married couples should do in the privacy of their bedrooms. It is about encouraging relationships that are faithful, loving and life-affirming.

It’s not about keeping kids ignorant about sex. It’s about teaching them what is right and wrong, the consequences of actions, the responsibilities that freedom brings, and that things are wrong not because society or the Church define them as wrong but because they are, in the first place, bad and harmful to persons.

It’s not about curtailing choice. It's about teaching respect for life in all its stages.

We believe that life begins at conception. Yet we also know of so many who do not pause to think whether the pills they’re taking or the operation done to them kills the life already formed at conception. Even among good church-going Catholics there is a culture of silence to ignore, to not bother or be bothered about this grave sin against life.

The Church cannot lower its standards nor point to less than the ideal. For it is not for the Church to replace God’s will because many finds it inconvenient. When the Church teaches about Christian perfection, she cannot be like business and government which occasionally adjust standards and targets to project good efficiency and success rates. One should aspire for things that are beyond one’s reach. Otherwise what is heaven for?

To be a prophet is to be pro-life. So, how pro-life are you?

3. To be a prophet is every Christian’s task.

Here is a story I learned in grade school. It is about four people: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

“There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.”

The tasked of being a prophet is Everybody’s task. When we became Christians, we also assumed to follow Christ’s role of priest, prophet and king.

How is your being a prophet so far?

Here are some ways by which we can exercise fully our being prophets:

1. Listen to God speaking – in the scriptures, in the teachings of the Church, in prayer.
2. Be a prophet first to oneself: Do I live what I believe? Do I practice what I preach?
3. Challenge others with love, out of love. Fortiter in re, suaviter in modo. Be firm on principles but gentle in admonition.
4. Witness to hope – that things will change for the better. By doing so, we also witness to the power of God at work in things.
5. Always turn to Jesus, especially when disappointment sets in, and most especially when success sets in. He is our model, exemplar and guide.

Fellow prophets, let us pray for each other, encourage each other, and, if need be, challenge each other so we may fulfill our duty of following Christ faithfully as priest, king and prophet.

No comments:

Post a Comment