You’re joking, right? Called to be prophets: each of us?
Prophets were the Old Testament men. Like Isaiah, Ezekial, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Amos. They were called by the Lord to prophesy repentence to the Chosen Ones: the Israelis.
Right, but it did not end there.
Last Sunday’s homily from Bishop Robert Baron is titled, You are called to be a prophet.
This one echoed in my mind and heart, hence this piece on the obligation of each Christian, each of us, to take stock.
Not of our neighbor.
Not of our politicians.
Nor our priests, Bishops or pastors.
But of our own hearts.
Perhaps in a a more profound way than ever before.
Each word of the first reading for July 4, 2021 Christian liturgy is significant…if we can perceive the Old Testament as mirror.
He said to me, “Son of man, stand up on your feet and I will speak to you.” As he spoke, the Spirit came into me and raised me to my feet, and I heard him speaking to me.
He said: “Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.Ezekial 2
Because we are baptized. Since the astounding, miraculous and eternal effects of Baptism are so difficult for us to appreciate, a while back, I wrote this piece:
When baptized, each of us is left with an indelible spiritual mark. “No sin can erase this mark, even if sin prevents Baptism from bearing the fruits of salvation. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated. Through the sacrament, the Holy Spirit has marked us with the seal of eternal life…Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift. . . .We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.”
When baptized, we become a new creature.
Remember St. Paul writing in Corinthians, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Behold the old has passed away…?”
If you doubt this, have a conversation with a convert, any one of us will be delighted to provide details.
Fully aware that most of listeners believe prophecy the task on long ago Hebrew prophets, the Bishop unpacks the reading for us.
The prophet Ezekial writes during the Babylonian exile. The Jews are living among hundreds of thousands of pagans. Wouldn’t we expect then, that God would send his prophet to the pagans?
Ezekial is being sent to his own people! Because they are a people who have been chosen by God. To heed his commandments and laws but rebel. Despite their promises they walk away and do what they know is wrong. Despite their heritage, they walk away and embrace the pagan gods they know will lead them to destruction.
Precisely like you.
And me, each of us who has been baptized.
Let’s read what Bishop Barron calls our marvelous first reading again- slowly:
“Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day. The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says.’ And whether they listen or fail to listen—for they are a rebellious people—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.”
We tend to hang around with people like us. I spent the first half of my life in academic medicine, most of my friends were atheists or agnostics like me. We were products of the American love affair with professionalism that began during the middle of the last century. The majority of us walked away from our faith somewhere in undergrad. And yet, I converted while Hospital Director in a Massachusetts mendical center. With one or two exceptions, my colleagues had been Catholic in their youth-in a couple of cases, Jewish- but were then mostly atheists. Although I tried to keep it private, my conversion attracted a great deal of attention.
So, not infrequently, I ended up in conversation with former believers who felt obliged to talk about it. Why did I, as one colleague put it- want to return to the fifth century? Almost always, he or she wanted to explain why they walked away.
We can dress it up but the 2500 year old words to Ezekial fit: we are a rebellious people.
What does this mean for us?.
Run out to the street with apocalyptic signs proclaiming the end is near?
Go camp on our atheistic brother-in-law’s couch and start to preach at him?
Dr. Anthony Lilles this in Discipline of the Christian Life.:
Pandemics, social upheaval, natural disasters, calamities and rumors of war do not excuse us the mission to share the Gospel of Christ but instead provide new occasions and opportunity to reveal the wisdom the Christian discipline commends. For the sake of the Church and the world, we need to make a new beginning in our faith. It is time to examine our hearts and renew the practices of our faith, taking them up with greater boldness and resolve.
This task even imposes on us a certain love and dedication to those whom Christ has given authority over us even when they seem to have fallen short of their responsibilities. If we find in our hearts a certain resentment towards those who disappointed us in the Church, we must remind ourselves that it is never enough to condemn the apostles who abandoned, denied and betrayed the Lord. Indeed, how could these mysteries of our brokenness before God not be present now when they were present in the very shadow of the Cross.Anthony Lilles
“By putting us in touch with our own weakness and need for God, the struggles we confront in prayer and fasting dispose us to forgive, to have compassion, and to seek forgiveness. Filled with compassion, we learn to pray for our enemies rather than call down hell-fire on them. We find the courage to listen to the heart of our neighbor, especially if they are children or parents. We more readily recognize our own tendency to pre-judge as driven by our own shame, inability to take responsibility for our own actions, and our need to self-justify. As did our Crucified God, we must bear with one another patiently and persevere in love, even when with this means humbling ourselves unto death. Preserving true peace with one another requires implicating ourselves in one another’s plight, even at our own expense.”
A dear friend, an OMI priest, told me in a recent conversation, that in the end, we will be judged on one thing only.
“How well did we love?”
…Hence peace is likewise the fruit of love, which goes beyond what justice can provide.
That earthly peace which arises from love of neighbor symbolizes and results from the peace of Christ which radiates from God the Father. For by the cross the incarnate Son, the prince of peace reconciled all men with God. By thus restoring all men to the unity of one people and one body, He slew hatred in His own flesh; and, after being lifted on high by His resurrection, He poured forth the spirit of love into the hearts of men.
For this reason, all Christians are urgently summoned to do in love what the truth requires, and to join with all true peacemakers in pleading for peace and bringing it about.Gaudium et Spes