July 5, 2015

July 5, 2015

Whether big or little, we like to share things that are important to us.  We share on Facebook, or retweet or whatever, things that we find interesting or inspiring or humorous.  “Man, you’ve got to see this movie!”  “Did you see that video on YouTube?”  We desire to share things that are important to us.  “Hey, did you hear? I got a job!”  We want to share things that we feel would have some real benefit to another’s wellbeing.  Many years ago, when I was younger and living at home, my brother came up to me one morning with some advice—stemming from an ugly experience he had had the night before (that involved some cleanup) while I peacefully asleep.  Even though we weren’t on the best terms at that point in life, he still cared enough to approach me and proclaim, “Dude, do NOT drink the coffee at Frisch’s, dude.”  (Words that I’ve tried to abide by.)

Our Scriptures today deal with being a prophet, and of carrying out the work God has given, even in the midst of difficulty.  Our passage from the prophet Ezekiel has a lot to say on this.  First, the Lord speaks to him and the Spirit enters into him.  Ezekiel doesn’t assume the role of prophet on his own.  He is called to it by God; it’s from a power outside of himself, one that he doesn’t control.  And he is sent.  To be a prophet is to be on a mission.  He is sent to the Israelites, to his own people—and ones who God says have rebelled against Him.  In the ministry of the prophet, the hardest people to speak to have to be one’s own.  And no one likes to hear that they’ve rebelled against God, even if they have…and even if they know they have.  So as we see throughout the Scriptures—from the Old Testament to John the Baptist—to be a prophet invites hardships and disdain.

In the Mass, the 1st Reading is chosen to mirror the Gospel reading, and we can clearly see that it does here.  Jesus goes on the Sabbath to the synagogue in His native place, among His own people, and begins to teach.  “And they took offense at him.”  He came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, and they respond with judgments and labels.  In general, Jesus didn’t preach the kind of kingdom that most people were wanted to hear about.

Each of us, through our baptism, is called to be a prophet, to share in the prophetic ministry of Christ.  In this, we proclaim not our own words or our own will, and certainly not the popular voice, but God’s will and God’s Word, which is often difficult for us to hear and to follow.  This requires a continuous and courageous openness to the Lord, who wants to speak His Word to us, who wants to put His life into us, who wants His holy will to take root within us.  Too often we tend to want it the other way around: to want God to follow our ways and our will.

Prophets are called to speak God’s truth to the world.  This is certainly more challenging than sharing a YouTube video or warning about the potential ill effects of certain late-night coffee consumption.  To take on our prophetic calling surely won’t make us popular, especially as we proclaim a Kingdom many don’t seem to want to hear about.  It’s bound to invite judgments and labels and persecution.  But if we’re convinced that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” we must continue to propose—in charity and respect and joy and gentleness and peace—the Gospel as the way to authentic human flourishing and fulfillment: from the inherent dignity of human life at every stage, to the beauty of God’s design for marriage and family, to the salvation to be found in Christ and His Body, the Church.

Blessed Mother Teresa is known to have said, “God doesn’t require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”  It certainly must have seemed that all was lost when Jesus died on the Cross.  Yet we know that it’s the power of the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ that carries us through, and that WILL carry us through.  The grace of God is the source of our strength.  And so St. Paul says, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  To Ezekiel, the Lord says, “whether they heed or resist…they shall know that a prophet has been among them.” 

As Christians we are called to be different/to live differently.  With new challenges that arise also come new opportunities: new opportunities to allow God in, new opportunities to grow in grace, new opportunities to do God’s work and proclaim and witness to Christ.  Really, it’s what we’ve always been called to do, and what we continue to be called to do this day and into the unknown future, from sea to shining sea.