1994 July 17 – 16th Sun Ord (Bulletin Letters)
Cycle B – 16th Sun Ord
Jer 23, 1 – 6
Eph 2, 13 – 18
Mk 6, 30 – 34
Prophets, who are they? Where do they come from? What makes them tic?
For three weeks now, our Old Testament selections have high lighted the prophets, with readings form the books of Ezekiel, Amos and Jeremiah. In my own life, recent public stands; my Witness at Offutt and my letter to the editor regarding Pope John Paul’s statement on Women and the Priesthood in the D.M. Reg. and the Omaha World Herald, have put me at odds with both the Church and the State.
Both my weekly study of the readings and my current situation have given me good reason to be asking some question about what it means to be prophetic. Like, what makes a person a prophet? Who are they? Where do they come from? What makes them tic? How do we know if a prophet is right or wrong? What are the traits and characteristic of a good prophet?
It is never easy to know weather a prophet is right or wrong. Prophets speak for God’s point of view. And God’s point of view isn’t always easy to see right off the bat. It is often found in the blind spot of our own point of view. This is what make prophets & their messages so disturbing. Ultimately this question must be answered in the hearts, minds and consciences of each individual.
However, there are some traits and characteristics that are common to all good prophets. I know of at least five.
First, good prophets are insiders, part of the community to whom they are being prophetic. They are not outside agitators. They come from within a group, whether it be family, community, Church, nationality, ect….. Whatever the grouping, good prophets come from within.
Secondly, good prophets are motivated by love, love of God and love of the group to whom they are being prophetic.
One of the letters I received in support of my letter to the editor was from a Catholic women who is really questioning whether she ought to stay in the Church. She believes the Church is being less than honest about women. She sees all too many human flaws and institutional sins in the Church today. She ended her letter with a plea, “Give me one good reason why I should remain in the Catholic Church?”
I wrote back and told her that there is only one good reason, to stay in the Catholic Church and only one. And that reason is for love. No other reason makes since.
Thirdly, good prophets find their prophetic energy and imagination in grief, not anger.
The best advice I ever got from Bishop Dingman was about seeking justice within the Church. I asked Bishop Dingman if he ever got angry with the Church when he saw the Church hurt people. “Oh.” he said. “I never get angry with the Church, for anger leads to despair and despair will lead you out of the Church. I grief for the Church when I see it hurting people. And I recommit myself to making it a better Church.” He than reminded me of the Beatitude “Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be comforted.”
Fourthly, good prophets act out in word and in deed the prophetic message they are given. They name names. They point fingers. They make judgments. They get specific and personal. And they do all this, at a personal risk. John the Baptist lost his head because he told King Herod not to sleep with his brother’s wife, specific and personal.
If grief is the stuff in which prophetic energy and imagination is born and love is the rule by which it lives, than a hunger for justice is the fire that keeps it going.
Lastly, all prophets are human beings. They are made of the same stuff as anyone else. They have personal weakness and short comings. All too often they are easily dismissed because of a personal fault. Its always been easier to kill the messenger than to accept the message.
Most prophets I’ve ever know are not perfect people. They rarely claim to be. Yet, right or wrong prophets deserve a hearing. And all good ones, deserve our respect.