God’s Word often deals with the power of the Holy Spirit vis-à-vis the narrow views and the pettiness of the human mind.
In the Book of Numbers (11:25-29), we see Joshua, Moses’ aide, strongly insisting that Moses should order Eldad and Medad stopped in their prophesizing because they were not present when the official outpouring of the Spirit took place. We see it in the Gospel of Mark (9:38-48), as well. John is upset and reports to Jesus how he and his brother James tried to stop one who was driving out demons even though he was not on the official list of Jesus’ disciples. And indeed, we have been seeing it ourselves for the last 50 years or so, i.e., since Vatican II, as many stubborn people fight and resist and even reject the long overdue changes introduced by the Council.
In all these cases the root of the problem lies in lack of knowledge of the very nature of God’s Spirit and, consequently, of the nature of God Himself. God is generous, magnanimous, compassionate, patient. In a word, God is Love.
People who resist the power of the Spirit, who are stubbornly clinging to their narrow choices, and who try to prevent changes are often upset, angry, critical of others, and on the lookout for what is out of the ordinary. Their moments of joy are rare and far between.
Moses’ and Jesus’ reaction to them is practically identical: Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Do not prevent him…whoever is not against us is for us.
The concept of prophecy is an eloquent example of the many jewels that Vatican II rediscovered and tries to implement. It is also a fine example to illustrate how we might be petty people with narrow views, who, foolishly, resist the power of the Spirit. Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!
This is what Vatican II teaches us in the Holy Spirit: all the people of the Lord (all of us), in virtue of Baptism, are anointed prophets. This is indeed God’s will, God’s doing, and the Church’s implementation of His intention.
Let us then start with a definition of what a prophet is all about.
In a nutshell, Jesus is the most eloquent and clear picture of who a prophet is. Throughout the gospel this is the most reoccurring term used to describe what Jesus teaches, lives out and does. I frankly hesitated to tell you that Jesus is the best icon of a prophet because, almost instinctively, we might feel that we shouldn’t even try to preach, to live and to act as prophets because we are mere human beings and He, our Lord, is both man and God.
Let us, then, remind ourselves of the power of the Spirit. I told you at the outset that this is all about the power of the Spirit vis-à-vis human narrow views and foolish pettiness. Let us add, of course, human frailty, limitations, sinfulness and plain miseries.
Instead of looking at Jesus who should be considered (as a prophet) the finished product of the Spirit’s power, why not look at the classic prophets of old: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos, Ezekiel, and all the others? They are not intimidating; they were all very human, very imperfect, very weak, even petty, narrow-minded, and stubborn. But all of them either became docile or were forcibly made such by the Spirit.
Hence, we can say that a prophet, including every single one of us who was baptized, must become God’s property. We have to be SO possessed by God’s Word that we forfeit our personal choices, our plans, our likes and dislikes, our preferences to the point of preaching (mostly) with our lives the message of the gospel according to our state in life (as married, as single, as a parent, as a child, as consecrated to God, as a worker, etc.) instead of what we would prefer to be to enjoy a quiet, untroubled life. Secondly, we will be expected to experience first-hand, directly, personally something challenging, or demanding, or painful so that the preaching done mostly by example may be that much more convincing and forceful. Thirdly, we will be in for a constant inner struggle because we would be always fighting sin in our hearts. That means that we will be confronted by excruciatingly painful choices.
Jesus uses figurative language such as cutting off our hand, amputating our foot, gouging out our eye, and so on. One such excruciating choice would be how we handle wealth: whatever we possess already (a lot or a little) and what we would like to possess. Since what the world prophesizes about wealth and riches is in stark contrast with the basic call made by all the prophets about trusting in God and sharing with the less fortunate, you all realize that perhaps the most eloquent prophesizing that we make would be about what is of value to us on this earth and how much we are willing to share.
Clearly then, to be prophets requires courage, inner strength, willingness to do violence to our evil inclinations and openness to the full blast of the Spirit’s power.
The choice up to us is not about being or not being prophets, because we are such in Baptism. That is a fact. But it would be about whether we will be so-so, ordinary, weak prophets or Christ-like prophets.
Today, Jesus Himself ask us: What type of prophet would you like to be?