19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
August 12, 2012
PROPHETS ARE PEOPLE TOO!
Elijah was apparently weary, tired, and despondent. Jezebel wanted him dead. His prophesies against the false god Baal was taking its toll on his social capital. He was rejected. No … it was more like hated to the bone, abhorred for speaking the truth that hurt people no end.
Rightly or wrongly, at times, such as now, I feel like a little Elijah – treated by people who think they have a divine right to judge me, as pariah.
Elijah definitely had feelings, too. He definitely experienced more than just fear from the scheming Jezebel. He must have felt the heat and the pressure. And when he could no longer stand the heat, he literally went out of the proverbial kitchen, like a beaten dog, tail tucked behind the legs.
Prophets, for all the colorful and, at times, hard-hitting language they use, are definitely people too …
But the pressure and the heat in our postmodern times, come in a multiplicity of forms and guises. When, together with the institutional Church, we priests stand by, stand fast, and stand for, the official teaching of Mother Church, and speak about raging moral issues, we are faced with the full spectrum of responses from the respectful and deafening silence (that does not necessariy mean consent), to vehement, angry, and condemnatory rebuttals designed to deliver maximum damage against the messenger, not the message. Prophets in our times are declared unilaterally in social networking sites as “parasites,” as “liars,” as “pedophiles,” as “disrespectful” and “ancient,” or “medieval,” who walk around in “white gowns” and a whole lot more of unsavory titles and a multiplicity of other sweeping generalizations.
Modern-day prophets, like Elijah, are demonized, caricatured, reduced to absurdity, and attacked from all angles, including the highly sensationalized and exaggerated reports of sexual abuse, courtesy of mainstream, liberal media. The abominable sins and crimes of a few are imputed upon all, directly, obliquely, blatantly, or subtly, as the case may be.
Elijah was a case in point. People did not want to accept the message, so they schemed against the messenger, and plotted to kill the prophet.
It was not too long ago. I did what I thought the people where I worked needed. I organized them to guard their votes. I put up a system to safeguard their right of suffrage. I was hated. I was plotted against. And soon, I had to be whisked away for my life was literally in danger.
It was not too long ago either when, I took up the cudgels for a community who lamented the growing menace of drugs in the place where I worked. I organized awareness seminars. I was trying to move people into action. I preached about it as often as I could. We were making headway. We were growing a bit more committed and dedicated by the day. But we were also making certain individuals more than just a little uncomfortable.
And that was when I got a very subtle - but no less real – threat. I was “advised” to stop it all if I “wanted” to continue on saying Masses!
Prophets are people, too! They have feelings. They also can succumb to fear, to intimidation, to subtle and not so subtle accusations and condemnations. Elijah hied off to the desert, hiding under a broom tree, wishing he were dead … spent, crushed, demoralized … like I was … not once, not twice, but several times over in my life.
But as someone wrote, “it is always darkest just before dawn.” In pitch darkness, there is promise of light. Down in the lowest depths of discouragement, there is no way but up.
And this, my friend and reader, is the good news – the silver lining that hides behind the lowering dark clouds of seeming despair and despondency.
The God of wonders, the God of compassion, the God of life, and the God who reveals Himself in and through events, in history and in the vicissitudes of human life, here on earth, soon reveals Himself to the man or woman of faith and hope. The attentive seeker soon finds, and the attuned listener soon hears.
What do we hear today?
I would like to suggest two things, culled from Scripture … a command, and a promise.
Command … “Get up and eat!” Buck up … get a hold of yourself, and see the light. Gather yourself and smell the flowers! For the Lord gave Elijah food and drink, and, “strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.”
Command … “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Yes … bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling, and all malice have no permanent place in the heart of one who believes and hopes, and who waits on the Lord.
Yes, I admit I am discouraged even now. Yes, I admit I experience anger and frustration at the turn of events in our country and people. Yes, I admit there is reviling, even as I speak on behalf of righteousness.
Yes, I admit, too, that I was like unto the Jews, who murmured about what the Lord expects of us, his prophets, to do, and suffer as a consequence.
But today, I would like you and me to hold on to a promise, and hold on to a God of promises and fulfillment who reminds us, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”
Elijah was commanded to get up. Elijah was told to eat and drink. Like him, we too are commanded, and we, too, are given a promise … in and through the Eucharistic bread, come down from heaven!
Let us all calm down a little today. The God of promise and the God of fulfillment speaks His Word of life: “I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Yes, prophets are people, too. And precisely because we are people, one with you in faith, hope, and love, we find strength to continue on what we are tasked to do, for no other reason than this certainty of faith: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!”