14th Sunday of Ordinary Time - And They Shall Know...

The Scriptures speak to us today about the role of the prophet, about being chosen by God to be His instruments and witnesses, and about putting trust in His presence and power to accomplish that mission. The prophet is a person who claims to have a sense of vision, a special gift of perceiving the truth, and a claim to the authority to proclaim that truth publicly and courageously, especially in the face of opposition.

Throughout the history of ancient Israel, the role of the prophet was to be the mouthpiece of the one God, Yahweh… to guide the people Israel, to encourage them, to chastise them when necessary and to keep them on the straight path. "But you shall say to them: Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist-for they are a rebellious house - they shall know that a prophet has been among them." (Ez. 2:5)

The prophet was called to change the world by changing the hearts and minds of those living within it. This call was a radical and social response to life and God. Many of those called to be prophets tried in vain to find another vocation; they argued with God, trying to talk Him out of His choice, protesting their unworthiness and proclaiming how others were much better suited to carry out His will.

They should have known better. There is no containing the will of God. His choice was final - and no matter how inadequate the prophet may have felt, he always spoke with the authority of God, making Him known to the people, and bringing His love and justice into their hearts.

The vision of Jesus was a prophetic one, and the Gospel is full of seemingly unreasonable demands like turning the other cheek, loving one's enemies, and being compassionate with prostitutes and tax collectors. The very deceptively simple command to "love one's neighbor as oneself" suddenly becomes an almost outrageous request. We are expected to recognize every person as neighbor. We are challenged to offer help and comfort to anyone in need, especially the "minority person", the "different", the unloved and the alienated. Could this also mean the homeless, the aids victim, the criminal in the street as well as the victim?

Through Jesus we have been given wonderful insights into the relationship between God and the human family. This is good news for us, and we are moved to share this good news because we believe it has the potential to change peoples' lives and relationships for the good. It offers an understanding of human existence that answers some of the most basic questions that people have asked all throughout history about life and it its purpose.

Today we are surrounded by a host of would-be prophets, who raise their voices on talk-shows, in the movies, in the press, and in current literature - all of them pretending to have some special gift for discerning the truth and some exclusive right to proclaim it. They know exactly what is wrong with government, society and religion, and how precisely to cure any and all of their ills. Many of them are pretentious, egotistical, and intolerant, especially of those who disagree with them. So we can be sure that they are not authentic prophets.

But, in this babble of voices, the prophetic message of the Gospel will not be drowned out. It is proclaimed quietly but strongly by faith-filled men and women whose values stand in direct contrast to those of the world around them.

We are called to be modern-day prophets, and as such, we are at once and forever at odds with the enemies of life - in whatever shape or form they take, however we experience them in our different cultures. To ignore them is to encourage them. To refuse to say "No" to them, is to join them in their rejection of life's mysteries. Any commitment to an attitude that takes precedence over a commitment to life is a surrender of our spiritual life.

The example of faithfulness to God, the self-sacrificing and unconditional love for others, the patience in adversity, the spirit of concern and compassion for the poor and the powerless - these are the attitudes of mind and heart that make modern-day prophets. Like it or not, this is what we are all called to be.

Jesus makes it very clear that to be true disciples, we must open our eyes to the revelation that He brings; we must look at the world around us, and at one another, through His eyes, and live by that prophetic vision of His Gospel. It is that which allows us to claim that we belong to Him.

Our daily experiences of God act as signposts. They point to the fact that the only thing that matters is that we seek to be with God in what we do and how we think, how we feel and image the world and ourselves… that we find the joy, the mystery and wonder of ordinary living… and in allowing ourselves to be open to His presence, our relationship with Him becomes deeper and stronger. These moments challenge us to look at how we are living our lives, and they show us how much more we need to do things in a loving way that allows the world to see the face of God through us.