Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation (Serra Club Mass)
An obvious question to ask after reading this gospel: do we reject the prophets among us and their prophetic message b/c we know them too well? Do we fail to believe, choose not to believe b/c our familiarity with the messenger somehow taints the message? Notice also that those listening to Jesus the Prophet not only find his message incredible, they also treat him with contempt and then take offense at his audacity. You to have wonder if his reception would have been more serene if he had preached to the congregation something they wanted to hear. No preacher with his head attached in all the important places sets out to offend his listeners. And yet, Jesus manages to hit all the right buttons in these folks and then find himself set in the middle of an unbelieving crowd; their lack of faith strangling their miracles at birth. Do we reject the prophets among us and their prophetic message b/c we know them too well?
Your first objection here might be: “But, Father, I don’t know any prophets. How can I reject familiar prophets if I don’t know any?” But you do know prophets! You’re sitting in a church full of prophets right now. Priests, prophets, and kings baptized into the ministry of Christ as The Priest, The Prophet, The King. Yes, clean, well-dressed, elegantly educated and fragranced prophets but prophets despite their lack of grubbiness and stench. Prophets tell us and show us how to live now as if we were in heaven already. Their job is to constantly point us to our End. To keep us focused on our goal, to thump and jab us along the Way to Christ, reminding us at each step, each breath, each bit forward or backward that God never leaves us alone, never abandons us to our own limited skills and desires; that He never stops lifting us up and urging us to turn to Him, to re-turn to Him. Prophets are nags. Yes. But necessary ones.
Your second objection might be: “But, Father, none of these people have ever said anything remotely prophetic.” Maybe so. But let me ask you this: do you hear/listen prophetically? I mean, we talk constantly in Church about “seeing with the eyes of faith;” about putting on faith-glasses and looking at the world through the gospel first. Are your ears tuned to a prophetic frequency? Could you hear one of these many prophets remind you to drop some piece of petty nonsense in favor of the kingdom? To take on a piece of difficult work for your spiritual satisfaction and the good of the Body? Could you hear a prophet here sing your praises, call you by name, and then give you a prophetic word to preach, a message to spread without prejudice? What stops your ears from hearing? What stops your heart and mind from listening?
When you prophesy, it is perfectly reasonable for one of us to ask you, “Where did you get all this?” This might sound like incredulity but the question is more about authority than disbelief. Who authored that prophecy? Do you speak out of a true sense of our Father’s justice—one consistent with divine revelation and the tradition’s familial understanding of what justice is? Is your voice free of mere secular politics? Do you speak from the Body to the Body, or are you standing outside shouting at us? Are you working with the Church or against it? Is your prophecy true; meaning, do your words to us convey the beauty and goodness of God as we know Him together? Truly, now, are you speaking prophetically from the tradition of prophets or are you babbling eccentrically from your fantasies? Are you speaking out of a need to fix us or control us or to make us into your private image of Church? Where did you get all this? Prayer, fasting, lectio divina, works of mercy? Or do you speak out of self-righteous anger, liberal bourgeois entitlement, or some alien political philosophy?
If you speak the Word powerfully, with a contrite heart and all humility, your tongue will whisper directly to the ears that need that Word most. That Word will remain forever spoken b/c you have given voice to that which will not pass away.
Pic: Noah Buchanan, Surrender