Poor Amos—no one likes him. He is constantly being told to “go away.” That’s the price one pays for being a prophet. Jesus warns his disciples of the same fate:
If people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.
The fact is, most people don’t like prophetic voices. They make us uncomfortable. They irritate us and get under our skin. Why? –because a prophet forces us to think.
When I was in seminary, I learned this definition of a prophet:
A prophet is one who comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.
In other words, the seer in our midst brings relief to those who are downtrodden and suffering by inviting them to think about hope. In contrast, to those who are lording it over others and failing to live up to their calling as leaders, a prophet exhorts them to think about the potential of God’s wrath for their insolent behavior. So, whether we are relieved or irritated when a prophet speaks, we are challenged to think about his or her words.
But thinking about the words we hear is not enough. The message should lead us to action. If I hear a word of hope, my behavior should shift from a “poor me” attitude to one of seeking out God’s presence in the midst of my suffering. If I hear a word of challenge to the way I’ve been living, I should ask myself, “Is what I’m doing reflecting my relationship with God?” If I hear a word that tells me to be more tolerant of others and be more welcoming to others, do I do that?
For this week, I would suggest that each of us pray that we will be more attentive to the prophetic voices in our midst. But more importantly, not only attentive to them, but that we truly take them to heart and act upon the message we hear. It’s easy sometimes to dismiss the prophet as a “crackpot,” but we need to ask ourselves, “Why are we so dismissive of that voice?” If you are like me, I suspect that the reason the prophet is irksome is because he or she has hit a nerve or gotten too close to the truth about my situation. Remember people like Amos, Isaiah, Jesus, St. Catherine of Sienna, Mother Theresa, and Sr. Thea Bowman (to name only a few) are God’s voice to a world that needs to hear God’s message. May each of us hear the message and act upon it.