Have you ever attended a family dinner where you wondered if you and your siblings grew up in the same household – your view on the issues were so different from each other?
Or visited with friends and wondered if you both belonged to the same Catholic church because your understanding of living the gospel was so different?
If so, you might understand this comment by Jesus that “a prophet is not without honor expect in his native place and among his own kin.” (Mark 6:4) Being a prophet is tough work. Speaking on God’s behalf is not easy.
The nation – our world – needs prophets more than ever today. Each of us is called to speak on God’s behalf on the injustice that’s prevalent today. So, how do we do it? I would like to suggest five practices will help us with our prophecy work.
- Stay civil even when we are on opposite sides of an issue. Think of all the times Jesus was treated disrespectfully. He was asked to leave town… criticized for healing people…. called names. During all these situations and others, he stayed civil. He might have totally disagreed but he stayed respectful. We are called to be courageous but also civil in our prophetic work whether in person or on social media.
- Listen carefully. One of Stephen Covey’s habits for highly successful people is “Seek first to understand then to be understood.” It’s hard to have any dialogue when one person refuses to listen to another. Jesus listened carefully and patiently to the couple traveling to Emmaus. Once they shared their experience, he was able to share his and open up their eyes and hearts. I image our own Father Dominic with the innkeeper. Surely, he listened to the inn keeper’s point of view before presenting his own. He respected the innkeeper enough to listen to him which encouraged the innkeeper’s willingness to be open as well. We may not agree with someone but we must listen to them if we ever want them to listen.
- Don’t buy into stereotypes. Stereotypes build walls and keep us from connecting with other. Look at how Jesus is stereotyped in Mark 6:3. He’s not Jesus, the wonder worker, he’s the carpenter…. Mary’s son…..a normal Joe from the town. He can’t possibly do all these miraculous things. And because they couldn’t see past their vision of what someone like Jesus is supposed to be, he is not able to be truly what he was… a healer… a teacher… a prophet.
- Give up gossip. Gossip saps our energy and we prophets need energy to do our work. Total waste of energy. Jesus’ own experience with gossip in Mark 6:1-6 leads to his not being able to do much healing. The crowd’s gossip sowed seeds of disbelief that drained his energy.
- Have mercy. One of Pope Francis’ famous lines is “Who am I to judge.” It’s really hard not to judge people who seem to have such misguided opinions. Of course, they think the same about us! But if we walk into a conversation judging the other, we will never be able to connect with them. Being prophetic is speaking in God’s voice and our God is a merciful God.
So even though we may feel totally unprepared or, like Jesus, feel rejected in our own homes or with friends for preaching the truth of Jesus’ inclusion, openness and healing, we can’t give up.
God is sending us out as prophets to people who seem to be on the opposite side of justice issues than we are… who seem to see Jesus in a totally different way than we do. Come on… let’s support each other as prophets in a world desperate for God’s love. God’s spirit will be with us.
(Adapted from a preaching on July 8, 2018)