Prophets and the Status Quo

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Today’s readings are some of my favorites… In our first reading, I found it comforting to remember that we’re all “clothed in a robe of salvation” and “wrapped in a mantle of justice.” And that’s a good thing, simply because there’s often a little risk in following Jesus. It’s especially hard for our modern-day prophets, whose calls for justice often upset the status quo.

Some prophets, as we know from history, share the fate of John the Baptist – he followed God’s call at the cost of his life.

How do we describe a prophet? In Abraham Heschel’s book “The Prophets,” he states: “The prophet is a man who feels fiercely. God has thrust a burden upon his soul, and he is bowed and stunned at man’s fierce greed. Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world. God is raging in the prophet’s words… The prophet is intent on intensifying responsibility…contemptuous of pretense and self-pity. Others may suffer from cosmic aloneness; the prophet is overcome by the grandeur of divine presence.” That’s pretty intense. Who would even get close to such a person? Jesus did. He even asked John to baptize Him. And Jesus’ mother visited her cousin, John’s mom, when she learned she was expecting Jesus. It’s a small world.

Rabbi Heschel continues, “The prophet is a lonely man. He alienates the wicked as well as the pious, the cynics as well as the believers, the priests and the princes, the judges and the false prophets. But to be a prophet means to challenge and to defy and to cast out fear.”

The prophet doesn’t always speak in the name of the church, or a religion, no matter how worthy. He speaks in the name of the Creator of heaven and earth.

We Catholic Christians come from a long line of prophets: from Abraham to Moses, from Samuel to Nathan, from Elijah to Amos, from Hosea to Isaiah, from Jeremiah to Malachi.

And, from John the Baptizer to Jesus, the Son of God, whose birth we will soon celebrate. May the Holy Infant help us remember His cousin. John, and may we be gentle, yet strong: vulnerable and courageous. May we be faithful, and filled with God’s Spirit and strength.

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA