No one asks to receive a prophetic message. In Christianity, prophecy is not knowledge of the future as much as it is a message of repentance. Prophecy is a message that says, “Look at your behavior. Look what you are doing and how you a living. If you continue on this path bad things are going to happen. You are not who you should be.” And the thing that really burns about receiving a prophetic message is that deep down inside you know it is right. And so the initial response to it is anger. Think about the last time a parent corrected you or a boss had you sit down for a little talk or a friend or a spouse confronted you. Collectively our average blood pressure probably just spiked. Even spiritually — and perhaps especially spiritually — we can respond with anger when a prophetic message is spoken to us. In the first reading the Lord is calling Jeremiah to be His prophet and he warns Jeremiah: they are going to fight against you and try to crush you. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks a prophetic message. He refuses to perform mighty deeds for the people in his hometown like he had done elsewhere because they demanded it as proof. They decided they knew who he was, the kid that grew up next door, and he had to prove otherwise. Jesus is giving them the prophetic message that no, you don’t control how God acts and why. And this crowd that just a moment ago was marveling at his gracious words suddenly tries to kill him. Prophetic messages, even from the mouth of Jesus himself, are hard to swallow.
But seeing as how no one walks around claiming to be a prophet and speaking some message of repentance from on high, what are the prophetic moments in our life? One time for me was during a retreat a few weeks before being ordained a deacon. Five days set aside only for prayer, and the message that came to me as clear and certain as you sitting here was just a simple sentence: “you don’t trust me.” Angry doesn’t even capture my initial reaction. After nine years of study, spending my college years focused on God’s desires for my life and not my own… mere weeks from giving my entire life to God, making my promises of ordination and putting on the collar I wear almost everyday… and God is telling me that I don’t trust Him?!”
But He was right.
In your life I can only guess. It could have been the day that you realized that you’ve never been a true friend to anyone, or that the friends you do have are not people that you want to be like. Maybe there was a time when you did not come to mass much, and one day you looked at your children and realized that faith was not part of their lives at all. Or even simpler, maybe at some point you looked at yourself and knew that you had stopped striving to become someone better. Moments like those hurt. They hurt because the prophetic message is true and when we hear it, we know it.
And literally thank God for those painful moments of truth. To correct your path you must realize that you’ve went off course; to learn from a mistake you must know that you made one. When these moments of correction come into our lives, we must set aside the initial resistance, calm ourselves, and humbly listen to what we are being told. I do not pretend to tell you that doing such a thing is easy, but there something that makes it easier. St. Paul says that prophecies without love are brought to nothing. As hard as these messages are in our lives, they are prophecies spoken with love because they come from God. They are spoken by the word of our Creator who wants us to become what we are meant to be and to find the only true happiness and joy that will satisfy us.
One day I might have to preach a homily that is prophetic and hard for you to hear. One day I might be sitting with you privately and telling you something that you know but that you don’t really want to know. And one day you might be the one telling me that I’ve lost sight of something important in the eyes of God. When those days come, let’s agree that like our God, we will only speak something hard with a heart of love.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.