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Advent: the message of the Prophet, Past, Present, and Future

[caption id="attachment_5633" align="alignright" width="300"] Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting[/caption] The prophetic readings of this Advent season are calls to hope. Assuring God’s tender faithfulness, they offer visions of the future, the promise of comfort, peace, and jubilant homecoming when all God’s work of creation and salvation is accomplished.  At other times  they bring warnings  of the not-so-wonderful kind:  of the rise and fall of kingdoms, wars, plagues and  catastrophes of nature, if we do not repent with fervent hearts.  We tend to identify prophets as predictors of events to come. The prophet is one who stands before the vastness of the future and tells a stiff-necked people that we are in peril if we do not change our ways, and to a people brought low promises a God of patience and tender care ever ready to forgive. We know enough tragedy in the space of the past century. We have witnessed the immensity of evil world-wide, and our own unspeakable cruelty to one another, enough to tremble at God’s judgment. But we’ve also watched the destructiveness of tornados and hurricanes, fires,  earthquakes, volcanoes, and we know the science of their inevitability. These are not the visitation of God’s wrath upon us--although we know we are implicated in pollution, global warming and extinctions, and we have sinned against God’s earth and Gods beloved creatures. So today prophecy takes another form, in the present tense:  naming here and now the evils both blatant and hidden. Prophets see more sharply than others—they view the human condition as seen through God’s eyes, and name not just particular wrongs but systemic evil. Here prophecy  is bold speech at the risk of alienating one’s own community. To speak truth: not “It is what it is” as much as ”It is not what we think it is”—“it is not God’s IS.” Not “That’s the way things are” and we can’t do anything about it, but “Look again. Open your eyes. There are illusions and delusions all around. Deliberate blindness obscures human sin,  massive collective evils described casually as just  the way things are.”  No. This boat needs to be rocked. This silence needs to be broken. To keep things “nice”, to smooth over problems, to adhere to the propriety of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”:  No, not the prophetic call of the present. We Dominicans are pledged to truth.  We are part of an order dedicated to the Holy (not safe) Preaching. We strive to seek clarity, to listen carefully  to many points of  view, and with study and prayer, aware of our fallibility, name what we see. We remember that we are voices of God’s righteousness and saving grace, and especially voices for the voiceless. So we speak  as our energies and gifts make possible, keeping  the Gospel out there, before everyone’s eyes. Finally, prophets are also Carriers of the Memory—the past tense is critically important. We REMEMBER, and carry the promises God made to our ancestors in faith. We witness to God’s passionate involvement in every age. This is not the romance of “the good old days.” We carry the living memory of the Incarnation of God among us, the Cross and the Resurrection; the staggering, outrageous claim of our participation in Christ’s triumph over sin and death. As a Eucharistic family we “make memorial.” Proclaiming the death of the Lord, we remember our future. And Memory and Promise bring us in this present moment our prophetic truth for today. As Pope Honorius described the Dominican charism, we are “champions of the faith, and true lights for the world.”

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