01 August 2012

Prophets whining to God

St Alphonsus Liguori
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

WANTED: One prophet to serve as Mouthpiece for the Lord. Adventurous individual who is not afraid of causing trouble; willing to speak up against wickedness, injustice; eager to call out sinners in My Name; must be repentant, humble, obedient, not easily dissuaded by ridicule or mob violence; persuasive public speaker; able/willing to relocate at the Lord's command. Sackcloth/ashes provided. Salary: one pearl of great price. No self-starters, please. You won't find this want-ad in The Times-Picayune. And you probably can't imagine many jumping at the chance to be a Mouthpiece for the Lord. If Jeremiah is typical, it's easy enough to see why being a prophet is not exactly a growth industry. Even in an economy as bad as this one, a job that requires you to wander around the city yelling at sinners to repent seems less than attractive. But the salary sounds good: one pearl of great price. And then again, Jeremiah reports in his first HR review: “Woe to me, mother, that you gave me birth! I'm a man of strife and contention to all the land!” Is being a prophet worth the trouble?

Before we answer that question, we need to be reminded of a potentially inconvenient truth: whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, we are all prophets. What? You don't remember sending the Lord your resume? You didn't apply for the job? When did that I become a prophet, you ask? We were all made prophets the moment we were baptized. Becoming a member of the Body of Christ entails being made a prophet. You can't be a Christian and not be a prophet as well. So, let's dispense with the idea that the job of prophet is found only in the Old Testament; that it's a job given to someone else. It's our job. And it's time to punch the clock! 

 Now that we're on the clock, what are we supposed to be doing? If Jeremiah is our guide, we're supposed to be sitting alone with our indignation; bent over by the curses of our neighbors; and in continuous pain from our many wounds. Is being a prophet worth the trouble? Sure doesn't sound like it. One minute we're living our sinful lives and the next we're telling God that His words are our joy and our happiness. Then He calls us to be His prophets and we obey. Our sinful lives are suddenly set against His Word and all that we've been seems small, mean, incredibly trivial. Set against His Word, our own words and deeds are made to seem futile, selfish; they are whispers lost in His whirlwind, gestures unnoticed in His glory. And we would be right to shrink away from the prophet's mission if we went out without His blessing. What does the Lord say to Jeremiah in his despair? “If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand. . .I am with you, to deliver and rescue you.” Well, that's good to know, but what have we done as prophets that requires God to rescue us? First, no prophet can do his/her job as an unrepentant sinner. If we despair as prophets, it's b/c we preach repentance but do not ourselves repent. Second, who enjoys hearing that they are sinners? It's not an announcement that many are going to welcome. But repentance brings us the Kingdom, that pearl of great price. 

By word and deed, by what we say and do, we prophesy for Christ; we announce his Good News to the world and attract those who most need his mercy. Prophets are magnets, drawing in all those who feel the emptiness of sin and long to be filled with the freedom God's mercy bestows. Whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, by our words and deeds, we attract/repel those whom God sends to us. Prophets always prophesy to themselves first. 

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  1. Great one...even before I got to the economy reference I thought this was a homily that people in the audience who happen to be unemployed would identify with...

  2. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Very good post. This passage in Jeremiah is uplifting in so many ways. I am glad you added the repent and come back to me. I missed that in my blogpost. It is a very motivating passage.


  3. Gregg the Obscure11:45 AM

    This is one of your best. "Whispers lost in His whirlwind" is a phenomenal phrase.

  4. So many nice touches in this homily. I especially liked the phrase: "they are whispers lost in His whirlwind, gestures unnoticed in His glory".

    Overall I think this is a very effective homily - reminding us that we are all prophets; when we look at His Light our own faults are suddenly so easy to see; He calls us first - we answer, and when we answer we are called further to repentence, for we must be as "pure" as we can be (or at least recognize our areas of failings)before we journey out to bring others back into His Light.

    Step by step, phrase by phrase, you explained quite well and, I would think, encouraged much thought and prayer in those who heard/read this.