The scripture readings assigned for Sunday, August 18 are: Jer 38:4-6, 8-10, Ps 40, Heb 12: 1-4, and Luke 12: 49-53. Let’s explore these challenging readings as we apply them to our own lives.
What is the role of prophecy in your life? First, we need to define what we mean by a prophet in the scriptural sense. For our ancestors, prophets were the “Conscience of Israel.” Another way to say it is: prophets are the people in our midst who inform us of the future implications of our present actions. It is a ministry, for sure.
The ancient prophets often stayed around the temple or the court of the king because they knew that the “holy” folks there needed the challenge to be authentic more than those outside. But the powers began to be agitated by these challenges to change and hired their own prophets who would say what they wanted them to say. They “ate at the king or priest’s table.” They were beholden to the religious and secular powers.
There are many who claim to speak for God today that just don’t. How do we discern an authentic prophet today? There are five characteristics of a real prophet: The true conscience of the people will always take us back to the beginnings of our faith. He or she can never profit for prophecy. The opposite is true; the true prophet will always suffer for telling the truth. And those who carry out the word of the prophet will suffer also. Finally, most of us know a real prophet when we see one, but we are not willing to admit is because we know what suffering will come from our following the “conscience of the people.”
Jesus was a real prophet. He came to preach repentance, a 180-degree turn around in the lives of the people. They were challenged by Jesus to change their value system: What we once thought important, we now regard as insignificant; what we once thought as insignificant is now the most important dimension of our life.
And where we having “mind changing” we have confusion and often times tension. In the Gospel today Jesus says as much when he reminds us that he came to bring fire on the earth, and that fire of truth would divide families and friends, not because that was what Jesus wanted, but because we don’t want to change or have someone tell us to change. We like it just the way it is. Jesus knew this and died because of it.
Watch for the real prophets. Sometimes they are in pulpits; most often they are out on the streets helping people, saving people, fighting for the rights of all people.
T he intensity of our neighbor-love determines how alive we are. (I have taken some of the insights for this piece from Fr. Roger Vermalen Korban)