It’s frustrating and confounding work, to be a prophet.
You definitely get a sense of that when you consider the words of John the Baptist in today’s gospel passage.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests
and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it,
but admitted, “I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
Count on being misunderstood, then, when you try to do the Lord’s bidding. And don’t expect to make much of an impact, either. Don’t expect to see the fruits of your labor. You’re much more likely to wind up like ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert…’
And yet, prophesy we must. Witness, we must.
That thought occurred to me on the trip home from our Advent / Christmas visit to our Kairos brothers at Menard Correctional Center yesterday afternoon. One of my teammate’s offered a prophet’s lament – noting how empty it left him feeling, having just wished “Merry Christmas” to men who will spend that blessed day behind bars, in crowded dehumanizing conditions.
I understand exactly what my teammate was talking about: There’s precious little we can do to improve those conditions. Precious little, except to bring our brothers the Good News: To remind them that they are not forgotten. To offer them a hug and a word of encouragement. To accept our call to be prophets…ones who are sent ‘to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and release to the prisoners…’
It’s a call very similar to the one I’ve been feeling in another area of my life lately – visiting an infirmed elderly relative during her extended stay in a local hospital. Over the past week and a half, there have been a couple of early-morning calls notifying us that she’d taken a turn for the worse. Both times, the immediate crisis passed…but there seems to be no identifiable cause, no logical course of treatment to pursue. And so we are left to wonder about our role, as relatives, of this dear woman. How do we help her, except to be with her? To remind her of God’s great love for her, and for everyone in her family?
Nothing seems to get “fixed,” I’ve noticed, whenever I heed the invitation to bear glad tidings to those in need around me. Despite that fact, however, I’ve also noticed that it IS possible to experience joy.
Inexplicable joy, under the circumstances.
A reminder, on Gaudete Sunday, that a prophet’s recompense comes from heeding the words of St. Paul:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit…
The One who calls you is faithful,
and He will also accomplish it.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.