I have been thinking and preaching about the need for prophets for a long time. In the Catholic Church we are anointed priest, prophet and king or queen just after we are washed with the waters of baptism.
Just like Jesus, we carry within us the holy gift of prophecy. We know that prophecy does not mean predicting the future, although the biblical prophetic tradition can include this element. But the primary thrust of being a prophet is to speak the truth to power. And the truth, as the biblical prophets saw it, was to protect and guard the poor and the powerless, the widow and the orphan.
The prophet spoke about distributive justice, in which we all share equally in the goods of this world. The unfortunate reality is we Christians don’t always act and speak prophetically. We often “go along to get along” because it benefits us.
In the first reading for this Sunday comes from the Prophet Jeremiah 23: 1-6. Jeremiah observed how the “shepherds” of his time “mislead and scatter the flock.” Yahweh will punish those evil shepherds. But there is a ray of hope as Jeremiah speaks about other shepherds that God will appoint who will care for the flock and who will govern wisely. The righteous ruler will be called “Yahweh, our justice.” But alas, the Chosen People never seemed to be able to surface such a leader. Leader after leader continued to use the people, not help them. Until Jesus the Prophet comes and we see “Yahweh, our justice.”
Jesus becomes the human voice of God. He spends his time gathering disciples and teaching them the meaning of “Yahweh, our justice.” And his expectation is that those who come after him, anointed by Him, would also be called “Yahweh, our justice.” Those of us who have been washed in the waters of baptism and anointed priest, prophet, king or queen, have the Spirit of the God of justice within us to compel us to be prophets today; to stand with the poor and powerless and those shunted to the margins of our society.
In the Gospel assigned for this coming weekend (Mark 6: 30-34), Jesus gives us a lesson in how to be prophets, by realizing that with a little we can do a lot. In these few verses, Jesus gives us the teaching that we must be available to those in need. “His heart was moved with pity for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.”
In the verses following the ones assigned today, Jesus continued to teach his disciples. He taught them to feed the hungry and they could do that with just a few loaves and fishes. Not much, but enough. And we too, even though we may have little, we are commissioned by Jesus and empowered by our baptism to turn the little we have into an abundance for others. And we certainly can advocate for the poor and powerless no matter how little or much we have.
Jesus says, “You feed them!”
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