01 October 2006

Can you be a prophet?

26th Sunday OT: Num 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-43, 45, 47-48
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Andrew Kim High School Student Retreat, October 1, 2006

Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!

Two men not of Moses’ group received the spirit of the Lord and began to prophesy in the camp. A young man jealous for Moses’ sake runs to tattle on them. Joshua, an old friend of Moses said, “Moses, my lord, stop them.” What is this guy worried about? He’s concerned that Moses will be dishonored by the men who prophesy w/o Moses’ authority. He is worried that there will be divisions in the camp. One side for Moses and another against him. He is worried that these prophets will lead the people astray. And he is anxious for his friend, Moses, and his reputation. What Joshua doesn’t understand is that the spirit of the Lord rested on these men as well and made them prophets. Moses comforts Joshua by saying, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

You see, Moses understands that the Lord will rest His spirit where he pleases. On me, on you, on all of us if He chooses. And he will make us all prophets if he likes. He will give us the job of prophesying, the job of telling everyone of His great deeds and His loving words. Though we have rules and job descriptions and policies and requirements, the Lord doesn’t. He will send His spirit as He pleases.

So here’s my question to you: can you be a prophet? Can you go and tell everyone the great deeds of the Lord, proclaim to everyone His loving words? What does it take to be a prophet? Well, it seems that you have to be really old. Lots of wrinkles, lots of gray hair, maybe a pair of glasses and a hearing aid. Moses’ seventy prophets were elders, old guys who knew a lot b/c they had lived a lot. It also seems that you have to be a guy. The elders were all men. So maybe the spirit of the Lord will rest only on old men. You have to be old and male. What else? The big one, of course: you are not a prophet unless the spirit of the Lord comes to rest on you. Can you be a prophet?

Let’s look again at the story from this morning’s gospel in Mark. It’s almost exactly like the story of Moses and the young man, isn’t it? John finds out that there are people out there casting out demons in Jesus’ name—people not of Jesus’ group! John tells Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Just like the young man in the first story, John tattles to his teacher that someone not of their group is doing something that only members of their group should be doing! Jesus says basically the same thing that Moses said, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” Jesus is saying here that you don’t have to be a member of his small group of disciples to be on his side. Anyone who does a mighty deed in his name is on his side!

So, can you be a prophet? Remember now: only old men who have the spirit of the Lord on them can be prophets, right? WRONG! Jesus is clear: anyone who does a mighty deed in his name is on his side! And what do prophets do but do mighty deeds in the Lord’s name. The job of the prophet is to tell everyone of the Lord’s great deeds and His loving words. The Lord brought Moses and his people out of slavery in Egypt. He destroyed the armies that chased them. He guided them though the desert. Gave them food and water when they had none. And brought them to the Promised Land. Great deeds! And he made a covenant with them: you be my people and I will be your God. Loving words!

Our Lord Jesus does all of this again for us, for everyone in this room. He brings us out of our slavery to sin. He destroys the power of the Enemy over us. He guides us through our deserts, all of our dry and troubled times. He gives us food and drink, his Body and Blood in the Mass. He brings us to the Promised Land of heaven. Great deeds! And he makes a New Covenant with us: I will die for you so that you don’t have to die; love me, love one another, teach and preach what I have taught you.

Be prophets! Tell everyone of the Lord great deeds and loving words. Learn your faith as best you can and tell the truth to anyone who will listen. Learn you faith as best you can and make sure that the way you live your life is an excellent example to others. Do not cause someone to fail in their faith b/c of your sin. Be careful! Jesus tells his disciples: “Whoever cause one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” What does he mean? He means that we should never lead anyone into sin, we should never be an example of sin for others, we should never cause damage to anyone else’s faith. If we do, it would be better for us if we had a giant stone hung around our necks and then tossed into the ocean to sink.

Your job as a prophet, as one on whom the spirit of the Lord has rested, your job is to tell everyone about your faith, about how Christ came into your life, about how you know and love the Lord, about how the Church is the Body of Christ, and about how the Lord uses his Church to bring all of his gifts to his people and the world. This sounds like a lot of work. Probably embarrassing work at times. It’s not always easy for us to talk openly to others about our faith. They may get offended or tell us to shut up or just walk away. True. They may do all these things. But prophets are often ignored or told to shut up or sometimes worse. But you see here’s the thing: the great deeds of the Lord and His loving words must be told. Told and lived. Not just spoken again but done. The sick must be cured. The hungry must fed. The naked must be clothed. The imprisoned must be visited. Those enslaved to sin must know they are now free. Do these things. Tell others about the mighty works of God by doing these things yourself. Our Holy Father, John Paul II, said over and over again to us, “Do not be afraid! Do not be afraid!”

Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! We are! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all! He has! He has.

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