4th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
heard the following in one form or another a thousand times over the
years: “But, Father, I'm just a housewife, a secretary, a teacher,
a coach, a retired cop, etc. . .I'm not a priest or a prophet! I
can't preach or teach the Good News!” This exclamation disavowing
responsibility for being a priest and prophet usually comes after
I've exhorted a congregation to go out into the world and be the
priests and prophets they've promised to be. It boils down to saying
that I can't be and do what I promised to be and do b/c I'm not who
and what Christ says I am. What a strange thing for a Christian to
say. I am not who and
what Christ says I am.
When someone says to me that he or she is “just a student or just a
nurse or just a custodian,” I add, “You are not just
anything. You are a priest, prophet, and king; dead, buried, and
risen in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus; baptized
into his mission and ministry, and charged with bearing witness to
the coming of his Father's Kingdom! Now, go
act like it.” Why
the reluctance to be and do what we've promised to be and do in
Christ? Jesus answers, “No
prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
example, last Sunday, we heard Jesus announce
to the synagogue that he is the Messiah. Everyone is amazed by his
graciousness. That amazement lasts about ten seconds. Then the
questions, suspicions, and accusations start to fly: “Hey, wait a
minute, isn't he just a local boy? That's Joseph the carpenter's son.
Someone from this podunk town can't possibly be the Messiah. Who's he
think he's foolin'?” If they can say that about Jesus the Christ,
what are they going to say about me when I try to preach or teach the
Good News? I remember her from Cabrini/Mt. Carmel/Dominican. I
remember him from Brother Martin/Jesuit/Rummel. And then the memories
start to flow and whatever credibility you had is washed away in your
dodgy past. I get it. I do. I'm right there with you. My own past is
a huge stumbling block for friends and family who knew me before I
became a Dominican friar and priest 23yrs ago. But here's the hard
truth of who you are now: in
Christ Jesus you are a new creation, a renewed creature of grace and
And you have been given all that you need to be preacher and teacher
of the Good News right where you are, whatever you are doing.
it's not an easy path to walk. No, it's not a simple thing to bear
witness to Christ. And no, it's not just a matter of being kind to
others and smiling a lot. Jesus stood up in a synagogue and claimed
to be the Son of God, the Messiah. They literally ran him out of town
and tried to kill him! If you follow Christ, then you can expect
nothing less when you bear witness to him. You can expect ridicule,
opposition, indifference, and maybe even some violence. You might be
canceled, fired, silenced, or even jailed. Or. . .you might be
ignored altogether. Doesn't matter. Our mission is not to drag dirty
sinners into the confessional and browbeat them until they convert.
Our mission is to show in word and deed how the mercy of God has
transformed our lives and how that transformation is freely offered
to anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear. Our mission isn't about
being right, or holier-than-them, or more socially respectable. It's
about being as much like Christ as we possibly can so that his offer
of mercy to sinners is heard and seen in us. And we cannot forget
that we were once and probably still are sinners in need of his
mercy. That's our motivation to preach and teach – we've been into
the dark, and we've seen the light. This makes us humble and grateful. .
self-righteous and prideful.
if you struggle to be a prophet at work or at school, why? What's
stopping you? Are you afraid that your family and friends are going
to remind you of your sins? If those sins are forgiven, who cares?
That's the point! Your sins are forgiven. You are a new creation.
Maybe you're reluctant to preach and teach the faith b/c it means
living up to the standards you're preaching and teaching. Good! You
should be reluctant. Following Christ is not an easy path to walk.
But telling others about your life in Christ is a great way for you
to hold yourself accountable. Maybe you're afraid that bearing
witness will expose your faith to ridicule and opposition, and you're
not sure you can fend off objections and answer hard questions. Fair
enough. All you need to do is tell your story. If you can't answer
objections and questions, fine. Don't. Just say, “I don't know. But
here's what I do know. . .” And tell your story. Your story is
Christ's story. Mercy, forgiveness; always doing the right thing;
seeking the face of God in prayer; and being willing to sacrifice in
love for another. That's what prophets do. That's what you've
promised to do.
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