Mike Rowe’s ventures in trying out all kinds of Dirty Jobs that were featured on the Discovery Channel give us an idea of how crucial to our lifestyle and comfort these jobs actually are even though we never seem to appreciate them.
Well, our liturgy for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time reminds us that there is even a less glamorous job, a much “dirtier” one, yet a most vital one for the good of the whole Body of Christ and the glory of God: being a prophet.
And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them. (Ezekiel 2:5)
This honest and bold warning from God leaves us with the right impression of how hard, disheartening and demanding being a prophet must be.
By now though, you might ask me why I insist on talking to you about being a prophet. Aren’t prophets a prominent feature of the Old Testament, but who are now passé?
Well, no. There is a prayer in the rite of Baptism that goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Here it is.
He (God) now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation, so that you may remain as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet and King, unto eternal, life.
Baptism incorporates us into Christ and we become inseparable, truly one with him, part of him. As members of his Body we share everlasting life by acting, day in and day out, as Priests, Prophets and Kings.
What are the characteristics, the traits of genuine prophets? They ought to be emptied of themselves so as to be imbued with wisdom, power, truth and determination straight from God. They are expected to be uncommonly bold and daring for they are “possessed” by the Holy Spirit on whom they rely in all their endeavors.
As a warning, let me add that prophets might have to act out in visible, even crude ways, before the people to whom they are sent, the details of the plan God intends to carry out. However, the people’s response might, again, be one of resistance, disbelief, ridicule, if not of outright hostility, rejection and violence against God’s messengers.
This is evidenced by what we read in each of our three readings.
1st reading (Ezekiel 2:2-5): I am sending you (Ezekiel) to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me;
2nd reading (2 Corinthians 12:7-10): I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ.
And, in the Gospel passage (Mark 6:1-6), Jesus is called the “son of Mary” (not of Joseph) thus, subtly implying that he was an illegitimate child conceived out of wedlock. “And they took offense at him.”
This is the likely lot of any prophet.
You might wonder if, personally, I am scared by this prospect. Yes, I am. And are you apprehensive about how you might be received were you to accept what the Holy Spirit might prompt you to do in the name of Christ?
I hope you agree that we are living in very troubled, ungodly, amoral times. For many, anything goes. There is apathy, discouragement, frustration and loss of character, decency, accountability and integrity.
Heroes are rare. Bold people ruled by principles are too few. Relativism, lack of commitment and pursuit of hedonism flatten the world rather than inspire it. Perhaps the need for genuine prophets has never been greater.
Let me illustrate to you through questions what I think a prophet should be doing in our days, in our situation, under the present-day circumstances.
Do I make decisions based on principles (Gospel’s principles) or on public opinion and popular, prevalent trends or, even worse, based on emotions?
If in financial straits, what am I willing to give up; where do I make the cuts?
Do I display clear evidence that I trust in God and Divine Providence?
Do I show in concrete ways solidarity with the less fortunate?
What am I willing to do for the protection of human life, from conception to natural death, as a gift from God?
Do I stand up and allow myself to be counted or am I afraid to display boldly my faith and my adherence to the teachings of Christ and his Church?
Am I inclined to compromise in the area of faith and morals?
Are the values guiding my life and my family, lived out in visible ways for all to see regardless of consequences?
Am I guided by the Gospel and the teachings of the Church or by what the secular media dish out in such an unprincipled fashion?
What do I deem worth making costly personal sacrifices to achieve? Would Jesus approve of that?
What am I willing to endure out of love for Jesus Christ, his Church and the Truth?
In trying to answer these questions we should become apprehensive and hesitant. After all, we are only human and frail. But Jesus knows that. Actually the Father’s modus operandi has been always the same: He picks the most unsuitable, most unfit subjects to get His job done.
Let us not be afraid; but bold and generous in the Spirit. We were given a Spirit of power and courage. We are inspired by the only One with words of eternal life. The weapons we have are far superior to the weapons of our opponents, of the world itself.
Greater is He who is in us than the one who is in the world! (1 Jn. 4:4)
Hence, with trust in the Holy Spirit we shall say: Here am I, Lord, send me. (Isaiah 6:8)