October 23, 2019

To Be a Prophet

“…they shall know that a prophet has been among them.”

God’s words are not always clear; God’s words are not always what people would like to hear, but only fools would dare to ignore them or, even worse, take the liberty of choosing which ones to abide by and which ones to dismiss.

I hope you have noticed how God’s own words in the Bible are never lightweight, quaint, mainstream, run-of-the-mill chat. God’s words, without a single exception, are more than challenging, they all come with this warning: “handle with extreme caution: these words cause Life or death.”

This is the same warning but in God’s words:  Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) Do you see? It is “living” and “effective” like a live electric wire and, like electricity, it can do a lot of good or cause death. In this case, it would be spiritual death.

In the context of the unparalleled significance of God’s words, we should begin to appreciate who a “prophet” is. This is my unconventional definition of “prophet”: A prophet is a person selected and anointed by Almighty God to be charged, imbued, possessed and transformed by His divine words to such a degree that it becomes impossible for his audience to continue to live their lives as if he had never confronted them with those words.

Let us, then, draw some simple conclusions: for believers of all kinds, shades and degrees, there can be no greater challenge than to have to respond to the Word spoken to them. God’s Word is spoken to all his children, to those who are wise and take it to heart as well as to those who have rebelled, are hard of face, and obstinate of heart. On Judgment Day, no one can honestly tell the One sitting on the throne that his Word had not been spoken to him/her or that the Word was lost and/or watered down in the sea of zillions of words spoken in the cacophony of a world of instant information.

And, perhaps, the conclusion that most people would not make on their own is that the prophet Ezekiel, or any other Old Testament prophet, was a forerunner, a precursor of THE Prophet, Jesus Christ, the Word who was with God from the beginning and was God himself. (John 1:1)

The lesson for us today is that it is crucial for us to have always the correct response to God’s Word, i.e. to every utterance and action of THE Prophet.

The lesson can be put in a nutshell: Faced by God’s Word, we are strongly advised to toss aside any preconceived ideas, personal preferences, detailed plans, or zones of personal comfort, because God’s Word is unlike any human word, and it comes always with the warning: “Handle with extreme caution: These words cause Life or death.”

The mistake made by the people of Nazareth is repeated too often today as well. More than likely, it is due to mental laziness, which stems from giving to God’s Word and to his prophets the same superficial consideration given to any human verbiage and/or casual talk.

A firm notion which we must keep always in mind is that, any time we, as members of the Body of Christ, gather to “do” Eucharist or listen to God’s Word, as well as whenever we engage in any ordinary activity, we shall know that not only has a prophet has been among us, but that we are living with and in THE Prophet.

Hence, we will have to settle for no mighty deed apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them unless we give the right answers to these questions:“Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!”

In the wake of the recent, presumptuous and insane redefinition of marriage issued by five of the nine justices of the Supreme Court, and the giddy reaction of so many, it seems that a great number of believers, too, have given the wrong answer to those questions and tossed God’s words into the bin of human verbiage, broken promises by politicians and trivial opinions.

I am referring, of course, to these words of God: God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them, saying: “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.

If we do not rebel against this usurpation of God’s sovereignty and foolish disregard for natural law, we can expect very little help from THE Prophet. If we allow godless LGBT lobbyists to make us cower by accusing us of bigotry and by threatening to take away our livelihood for adhering to God’s Word, we should expect Jesus to be sadly amazed at our lack of faith.

The following is the most recent reminder about the true significance of those words from God about marriage and our bodies:

The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home, whereas thinking that we enjoy absolute power over our own bodies turns, often subtly, into thinking that we enjoy absolute power over creation. Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. Also, valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.” (Section 155, Laudato Si)

It is scary to learn that most “millennials” fail to appreciate the differences between the two sexes and accept blurred and fluid gender identification. Uncertain about the real identity of THE Prophet, the wrong answer is given by too many also to these words of God: You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. . . (Psalm 139:9) Also, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. (Jeremiah 1:5)

In this case, disregard for God’s words is stubbornly maintained also in spite of the scientific, undeniable fact that a human embryo is a human being with its own DNA separate from its mother’s. But reality, even in this indisputable case, depends on the decision of a human being (oftentimes the mother) to be accepted or rejected. If reality is accepted, the tiny human being will be allowed to grow; if reality is rejected, it becomes some inconvenient blob of tissue to be removed and disposed of as trash.

At the end of these considerations, it might be wise to believe that a lot of the confusion, darkness and disorientation that are plaguing our western world can be traced to attempts at trumping reality with unprincipled ideologies and foolishly trying to pigeonhole into preconceived and narrow secular paradigms God’s irruption in our history in the flesh of his divine Son, Jesus Christ, THE Prophet.

It might be even wiser to acknowledge our collective arrogance in trying to redefine reality and in disregarding natural law and God’s law.

In the 6th Chapter of Mark’s Gospel (6:1-6), Jesus guarantees that if we, at long last, open our minds and hearts to the richness and fullness of God’s Word, we will be surprised by God’s power and love in ways described in the Holy Scripture but that we have chosen to ignore until now.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin

REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.

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Written by Fr Dino Vanin
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