Friday, January 29, 2010

Prophet of God's Truth

Fourth Ordinary Sunday Year C

Who is a prophet? Many people often think that a prophet is someone who foretells the future. Sometimes, the prophet does this but this isn’t the main task of the prophet. So who then is a prophet? A prophet is the messenger of God. He is the mouthpiece (spokesman) of God. He is a man who has been filled with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God through daily meditation and studying of the scriptures. It is through this studying of the scriptures that he comes to recognize the will of God for his time – what God is trying to say to his people in this time, under these circumstances and in this place. A prophet is not one who keeps silent. Once received, the message of God must be proclaimed. If not, God will raise other prophets to undertake the task.

The task of a prophet is not easy. Sometimes, the prophet is asked to give a message of hope and encouragement to God’s people. This is often welcomed. What is not easy to accept is the fact that the prophet is also given the task to challenge and condemn the people for their sinfulness. He is the conscience of the nation. It is here that the prophet faces opposition and rejection. Everyone likes to hear praises and words of encouragement. No one likes to hear criticism. But such criticism is necessary in order for us to grow. If we are not open to criticism, if we are not honest with ourselves, we would then be blind to the direction which God wants to lead us.

In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks of the many prophets in Israel’s history who were rejected by their own people and yet sometimes welcomed by others who were not Jews. Jesus too is such a prophet. When he speaks words of encouragement, like what he did in last week’s gospel reading, he receives people’s admiration. But in today’s gospel, Jesus chooses to reprimand his listeners. The Word of God is a double-edged sword. It cuts both ways. We must be prepared to hear not only words of encouragement but also words that would challenge our present way of life. In doing so, Jesus too is rejected.

What of us? Are we people who only like to hear praises and good things said about us? Or are we also able to accept a challenge to our present way of life? At the time of your baptism, each one of you was anointed to be a priest, prophet and king just like Jesus. Are you able to live up to this mission which you received at the time of your baptism?

Taking the prophetic role is difficult. No one wants to be the bad guy. That is why it is much easier to talk about people behind their backs then to confront them. As a prophetic people, we too are called to confront and challenge each other. Confrontation does not mean that we have no love. On the contrary, love is the reason why we must confront and act the prophet. In the second reading, we have the beautiful passage about love. Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, never boastful or conceited, or rude or selfish. Yes, all this is true. But the list also states that love delights in the truth. A prophet is not someone who is harsh and heartless. Rather, he is a person so full of love for God and his people that he is prepared to risk being rejected by his own people in speaking the truth to them.

Today, we are challenged to become such prophets. Love must be our motivation. Without love, we cannot be true prophets – we are only complainers and critics. Let us pray for the strength and the courage to speak the truth, but always to do so with love.

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