10 December 2022

Prophets are annoying

2nd Week of Advent (S)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

It would seem that “die violently” is just part of the prophet's job description. There are a few exceptions. Elijah is one of those. During his first go-round in the OT, Elijah is “taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses.” Setting aside the far-fetched notion that he was abducted by aliens, it seems that Elijah was assumed into heaven. He appears again on Mt. Tabor for the Transfiguration, and now he's the topic of conversation for Jesus and the disciples who went up that mountain with him. Jesus confirms the prophecy from Sirach that Elijah will “come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD...” In fact, he implies that Elijah has already come as the man John the Baptist. But no one recognized him and that he suffered the fate of most prophets – death. To make matters worse, Jesus prophesies that he too will suffer the fate of God's prophets. Why is it that God's prophets almost always end up dying violent deaths? From a merely natural standpoint, we can say, they are annoying. They pester, harangue, argue, and tell us things we don't want to hear. They are often disreputable, disheveled, and, if not actually diseased, dirty. They are not created by a Madison Ave PR firm to communicate a slick, compact message that's easily digested by the masses. God sends them to tell us the Truth and that more often than not means we have to change how we live. Ugh. So, death. Kill the messenger; kill the message. Of course, the truth doesn't die just b/c its bearer is killed. But what happens when we kill The Truth, the Way, and the Life? What happens when the prophet we kill is the Son of Man, the Son of God? His death is not just a death; it's a sacrifice. JB's death did not fulfill the covenant. His blood covered no one's sin. No other prophet – however powerful – could claim to be the Messiah, God Himself. All those other prophets preached the Truth. Christ is the Truth they preached. They showed us the Way. He is the Way. They urged us to choose Life. Christ is the Life we have chosen. Now, you and I are the prophets sent by God to bear witness – in our words and our deeds – to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. What difference does that (crucifix) make in your life? How will his violent death change you today? Even better, how will his coming again as a Child and as the Just Judge make you a better prophet, one sent to die to bear His truth to the world?      

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