4th Sunday Ordinary Time (Year C)
February 3, 2013
KNOWN, DEDICATED, APPOINTED, SENT!
Whoever thinks Jesus had a nice time preaching in his own hometown Nazareth probably never heard what he said about it … “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” There was rejection. There was cynicism and skepticism. Who was he anyway? … the son of the carpenter? … one who grew up alongside us … What has he got more than we all have?
Jeremiah fared no better. He always had a mouthful to tell his friends, who soon became his foes after he told them what didn’t sound like music to their ears. But today, I have bitter, but good news to would-be prophets among you: “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
Last week, I shared with you how difficult now it is to be a prophet like Jeremiah. For speaking the truth and going against the tide of public opinion (read: rigged surveys!), a modern prophet is crucified in the same arena of public opinion (read: social networking sites, and a servile mainstream media). Oppositionists call us all sorts of names, heaping upon us what indeed, and in truth, some of the rotten apples in the Church (a minuscule few, by the way) did – dastardly and shameful admittedly, but by no means the norm of a Church made up of saints and yes – sinners, too!
Jeremiah, the young and fledgling prophet knew what he was getting into … exactly the same rejection, exactly the same phenomenon shown nowadays – that is, shooting the messenger instead of dealing squarely with the message.
I write this reflection as much as an encouragement for me as for others who now play the role of prophet in our times. I refer to evangelizers who preach and teach. I refer to those who stand up for the rights of mother nature and defend the integrity of creation. I refer, too, to those who stand up for the moral teachings of the Church and speak bravely even with the threat of being criminalized. I refer to so many of us who refuse to follow the mainstream and avoid being co-opted by the prevailing culture of metaphysical and moral materialism.
But I write also to remind myself and others that to be a prophet has certain requirements. St. Paul gives us the most important one: LOVE. Yes … it is not enough to speak nicely and eloquently. It is not enough to be a do-gooder, and an activist. One can be an activist without being a prophet. One can have an advocacy without being a prophet patterned after the heart of Christ. And that most important element of prophecy is what St. Paul tells us: “If I have not love, I am nothing.”
I must confess to you that at times, I feel disheartened. And this despondency does not come from people not known to me who reject me, but from those I knew, those I taught, those we educated in Don Bosco schools, who seem to bite the hand that fed them, and who think and behave in ways that Don Bosco himself would not agree with … those who run counter to Church official teachings, those who espouse belief systems that are strong on the pole of “believing” but not on the pole of “belonging.”
But then even Jesus fared no better. Haters abounded then as now. And haters just gonna hate, gotta hate sicut erat in principium, nunc et semper! “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” But that was not all. At the end of Jesus’ discourse, they were really incensed. The passage we heard says it all: “they were filled with fury, “ “rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.”
Haters just gotta hate, gonna hate …
We’ve seen so many in the recent past who fell in the darkness of hate, in the dark of night … todos aquellos que se han caido en la noche! Son todos prophetas! They are genuine prophets, armed not with knives and guns and scimitars and scythes, but with the force of love, the force of truth, the force of forgiveness.
Take it from me. It is hard to be a prophet. But more than anything, take it from the Lord. He tells you and me today. I am known. I am dedicated. I am appointed. And I am sent.
“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.” … “I am with you to deliver you!”
What more can a hapless prophet ask for? With God on our side, you and me are hapless and helpless or hopeless no more!
I will sing, O Lord, of your salvation!