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Prophetic voice

Today’s readings invite us to ponder a critical, yet occasionally uncomfortable element of our Catholic faith — the prophetic role of Christ and his disciples.

 

A prophet is one who speaks to the world words that come from God. A prophet proclaims eternal truths about God and His loving and wise plans for us. A prophet applies the eternal truths, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the virtue of prudence, to the specific events and demands of the present day.

 

The prophetic wisdom of God is not always easy to embrace. Even when we are making efforts to know and love God, we often run into situations where the truth of the great prophet Isaiah speaks to us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is 55:8-9).

 

At certain crossroads in our lives, God’s plans and ways for us are hard to comprehend. They may be veiled in mystery that we only discover at a later moment in time. They may be the fruit of a very deep wisdom that we never fully grasp. They may state clearly a moral truth that I really do not want to live at this moment in my life.

 

For many people in our world today, a good portion of these truths may seem absurd and completely out of touch with their perspective on reality. In today’s Gospel, the people of Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth respond poorly to the prophetic words from Our Lord. The Gospel writer Luke recounts: “They were filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.” As a prophet, Jesus was persecuted, hunted and, in the end, nailed to a tree.

 

The sting for us is that, if we are living our faith authentically, which involves speaking out in the name of the Lord, then we should expect harassment as well. Through our Baptism, we are given the grace and privilege of sharing in Jesus’ priestly, prophetic and kingly office. Our Lord has chosen, in his wisdom, to rely upon us to assist him in proclaiming the Good News to our world, including its prophetic elements that often rub up against our present-day culture and its values. Recall Our Lord’s words: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (Jn 15: 20).

 

Am I willing to be persecuted with and for Jesus?

 

An additional word needs to be said about our attitude and our approach to the prophetic element of our discipleship. It must be governed by charity.

 

Let us be prophets filled with love. When faced with the broken and false values of our world, let us be clear, firm, and undeterred in our efforts to live, teach, and defend the Gospel way of life. However, let us do so in a Christ-like fashion, with a heart that is governed by the love of Christ.

 

When we find ourselves in those moments when we need to be a prophet, let us never do so out of anger or with an attitude of superiority. In fact, this aspect of our Christian life needs to be governed completely by the profound words of St. Paul: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrong-doing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

 

As disciples of Christ, let us pray with great fervor for the grace to know Jesus personally, love him dearly and serve him obediently.

 

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019