Friday, July 31, 2015

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” - Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955: German-born theoretical physicist)

Gospel Text: (MT 13:54-58)
Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.

Today’s Gospel works well with the feast of St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus and a most remarkable man. In the Gospel, people in the crowd begin to question Jesus’ credentials. Who is he to tell them what to do? Where does he, a carpenter’s son, get off preaching in the synagogue? Jesus’ response: “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” This fits with St. Ignatius because if you knew him as a young man, you would not have figured him for a saint. A nobleman, a soldier. — he seemed destined for a different life. The road he eventually chose wasn’t always easy.

Things don’t work out always as we have planned. Even Jesus had to preach to some pretty tough crowds. Ignatius turned away from a very different life to find what fulfilled him on deeper level.

What about you?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

“Isn’t that the way God works? - He takes the things in our lives that are ugly, disgusting, and downright wicked, and transforms them into something magnificent.”

“Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think... “― John Bunyan: (1628 – 1688: Author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, arguably the most famous published Christian allegory)

Gospel Text: (JN 20:1-2, 11-18)
On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning,
while it was still dark,
and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”

Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping.
And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white sitting there,
one at the head and one at the feet
where the Body of Jesus had been.
And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them, “They have taken my Lord,
and I don’t know where they laid him.”
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there,
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”
She thought it was the gardener and said to him,
“Sir, if you carried him away,
tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned and said to him in Hebrew,
“Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
Jesus said to her,
“Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and tell them,
‘I am going to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord,”
and then reported what he told her.

Today is the Memorial of Saint Mary Magdalene. Transformation is a word which comes to mind when I think about Mary Magdalene. She experienced profound personal transformation as she changed how she lived her life. Her love of Jesus and loyalty to him have always been an inspiration to me. What courage she demonstrated as she was present to Jesus during the horrific days of the crucifixion.

The gospel today invites us to pray about the first day after the crucifixion. The ever loyal Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb of Jesus to pray and when seeing the stone removed from the tomb believes that the body of Jesus has been stolen. Her devastating grief clouded her ability to see Jesus but rather she assumes he was the gardener. When she realizes she is talking with her beloved Jesus he says to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Mary Magdalene must start to make sense of the transformation of Jesus. And he needs her help to tell his disciples “I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Again the abiding faith and loyalty of Mary Magdalene is demonstrated as she shares this important message from Jesus.

When I think about the pictures I have been sorting from my lifespan, I have been reflecting upon times of transformation in my life. While I always strive to been a better person, I know I have had plenty of dark days. Mary Magdalene is such a comfort and an inspiration for me to build upon what I know to be true and also be ready to make a leap of faith.

These questions are part of my reflection and prayer today: When has Jesus been present to me and I have not seen him? In this culture what are the challenges of living my faith with true fidelity? How can I appreciate God’s presence through the transformations in my life? What can I do to accept changes in others? When do I best serve the kingdom of God?

“Tell us Mary, what did you see on the way? I saw the glory of the risen Christ. I saw his empty tomb.”

Get the picture?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“The will of God is not something you add to your life. It’s a course you choose”

God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” God has made the attainment of our happiness, his glory. Even chastisements come to us, not to crush us, but to make us mend our ways and save our souls.--St. Alphonsus de Ligouri: (1696 – 1787: an Italian Catholic bishop, spiritual writer, & scholastic philosopher)

Gospel Text: (MT 12:46-50)
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside,
asking to speak with you.”
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?”
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother.”

One of the greatest gifts God has given us is free will. This free will distinguishes us from everything else in the visible universe. It enables us to respond freely to the love of God. And that is what responsibility means: the ability to respond freely to the love of God. Free will, then, is our greatest dignity and most awesome responsibility.

Using our free will in making moral decisions is the very substance, the warp and the woof, of our every day life. Our free will decisions are not only expressive of our unique personality; they are also creative of it. Ultimately, they determine the unique person we will become.

So we spend a lot of time trying to discern what the will of God is for us. But often we think of the will of God as some secret, esoteric mystery that we do not know. We waste a lot of time and energy trying to discern this mysterious will of God. And we are disturbed and anxious because we are not doing the will of God. At the same time we are neglecting the things that are clearly and certainly the will of God.

The Catechism explains that Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude. (CCC# 1731)

And in so doing, we do the will of God and are on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Why do we ask proof of the veracity of One who cannot lie?”

The case for Christianity in general is well given by Chesterton…As to why God doesn't make it demonstratively clear; are we sure that He is even interested in the kind of Theism which would be a compelled logical assent to a conclusive argument? ― C.S. Lewis: (1898 – 1963: English novelist and poet)

Gospel Text: (MT 12:38-42)
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”

Everyone is familiar with the story of the man who is trapped on the roof of his house while a flood rages around him. He prays to God for deliverance. A short time later, a small boat motors down the flooded street. The man prefers to stay where he is, confident that God will save him.

Soon after, with the floodwaters continuing to engulf the house, a larger boat offers to evacuate him. Declining once again, the man is sure that he should stay where he is, so sure is he that God will come to his rescue. The rains continue and the water rises.

As the torrent engulfs the house, the man climbs to the top of the chimney. While there, awaiting God's intervention, a rescue helicopter lowers a ladder, but the man declines the help. "I know that God will save me," he says to the pilot.

Inevitably, the man is swept away in the water and drowns. When he appears before God, the man is sorely disappointed. "I had such confidence in you, Lord" he says, "How could you abandon me?"

"Abandon you?" God replies. "What more could you want? I sent you two boats and a helicopter!"

Misdirected expectations can blind us to the working of God in our lives.

In today's Gospel, Jesus calls his generation an evil one, because "it seeks a sign." Like the man caught in the flood, many of Jesus' contemporaries are not impressed by his words, his miracles, or even his assertion that he has the power to forgive sins. They want something more.

Jesus could just as well have been speaking to our own generation as to his. We are so accustomed to being over-stimulated by the ready access to data and information that our technology gives us, that reflection and contemplation can easily be pushed to the margin of our existence. The need for constant novelty is a sign of an unsettled mind and heart.

If we neglect to ponder our life and its circumstances, we will be unlikely to discover the subtleties of God's activity in our souls.

Jesus had already given many signs attesting to his Messiah-ship. He promises one more, "the sign of Jonah." Jesus is referring not only to his Passion, Death and Resurrection - symbolized by Jonah's three-day adventure in whaling - but also to his central message, "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

In a way, it is natural to want signs to verify our convictions. However, the signs that God sends may not be what we expect. Perhaps what we really need is the capacity to ponder our life in the presence of God - to pray - in order to discover how the Lord wants to lead us.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”― Elie Wiesel: (Romania-born American novelist, political activist, and Holocaust survivor)

Gospel Text: (MK 6:30-34)
The apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.

When was the last time your heart was moved with pity? Not the kind of pity that has been defined for us by Western philosophy, by Hollywood movies and Reality TV. Not the kind of pity that flows from a contemptuous and cynical heart. Not the kind of pity that judges the character or social condition of a vulnerable person. But Biblical pity. A pity that moves you to exclaim: “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” (I Cor. 15:10) A pity that is born out of the realization that we all share a human condition, we all share human weaknesses, we all share a need to be saved by a power who is greater than I am, a pity like that of Jesus of today’s gospel.

In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus’ heart stirred with pity. It was a pity that came from a heart that saw suffering, not as a sign of sin or weakness, but as an opportunity for grace and healing.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”― Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen: (1932–1996: Dutch-born Catholic priest and writer who authored 40 books on the spiritual life)

Gospel Text: (MT 12:14-21)
The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus
to put him to death.

When Jesus realized this, he withdrew from that place.
Many people followed him, and he cured them all,
but he warned them not to make him known.
This was to fulfill what had been spoken through Isaiah the prophet:

Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved in whom I delight;
I shall place my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not contend or cry out,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory.
And in his name the Gentiles will hope.

We get an insight into the inner world of Jesus in this text. In his use of the words of the prophet Isaiah we see Jesus placing images around his inner compassion – images that help us to understand its force and depth. For Jesus compassion is an uncontainable force within, moved by the very Spirit of God and oriented completely to the care of others. It flows out to heal, to cry out for justice, to support the broken and uphold the weak. It is a force that does not place burdens on people, but rather is exercised gently and often quietly. And perhaps most importantly, it not only brings healing in the present moment, but it brings hope for the future.

Like those in today’s gospel story and indeed like God’s people all through history, we often find ourselves in deserted and isolated places: illness, failed projects, social rejection or through our own selfishness. Such losses can leave us depleted and feeling a deep need for healing so that we might ‘enter’ into life in a more holistic way once again.

Thus the great power of hope. We need this powerful inner force all through the journey of life and in today’s gospel we see evidence to encourage us. No matter what the need, no matter how desperate we feel and no matter how unprepared, he is ready to meet us and to heal us.

With such assurance, fuelled by hope, we know that we will be nourished and sustained for the journey, even for the journey though the valleys of darkness and violence that we see so often in our world. He is already there in its midst, and he awaits us with compassion and healing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Before God comes as the just Judge, he comes as the King of Mercy

Let us ... remember Peter: three times he denied Jesus, precisely when he should have been closest to him; and when he hits bottom he meets the gaze of Jesus who patiently, wordlessly, says to him: "Peter, don't be afraid of your weakness, trust in Me." Peter understands, he feels the loving gaze of Jesus and he weeps. How beautiful is this gaze of Jesus — how much tenderness is there! Brothers and sisters, let us never lose trust in the patience and mercy of God! – Pope Francis: (Homily on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 7, 2013)

Gospel Text: (MT 12:1-8)
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

How can anyone forbid doing a good deed?

Today’s gospel reminds us that no reason could exist excusing us from not helping others. True charity respects the demands for justice, by avoiding our falling into arbitrariness or whim, while preventing harshness to kill the true spirit of God's Law; for charity is nothing but a continuous invitation to loving, to give ourselves to others.

Jesus Christ accused the Pharisees of condemning the innocent. That is a serious accusation. But what about us? Are we seriously interested in other people's problems? Do we consider them with affection and sympathy, as if we were judging a friend or a brother?

«It is mercy I want, not sacrifice» (Mt 12:7). Let us repeat it many times to engrave it on our heart: God, who is rich in mercy, wants us to be merciful. «How close God is of he who confess his mercy! Yes; God is not far from those contrite at heart» (St. Augustine). And how far away from God are we when we let our heart turn into hard stone!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Who except God can give you peace?

'See, my children, a person who is in a state of sin is always sad. Whatever he does, he is weary and disgusted with every thing; while he who is at peace with God is always happy, always joyous. . . Oh, beautiful life! Oh, beautiful death!'--St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney: T.O.S.F., ( 1786 – 1859: Patron saint of all priests)

Gospel Text: (MT 11:28-30)
Jesus said:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew in this passage portrays Jesus as the Wisdom of God. Matthew does not present Jesus as saying that he would put his disciples in touch with God who will give them peace. Rather he tells them that he “will be their peace and rest!

The Rabbis in the time of Jesus spoke of the “yoke of the Torah.” They had another saying “My yoke is my song!” The yoke and burden of Jesus is to submit to the Will of God. It is also the surest way to the knowledge of the Father.

Readers of the Scriptures are stunned by this passage. The scribes and pharisees did not understand what Jesus was saying about his yoke and burden. The towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, where he performed his greatest miracles didn’t get it either. Rather the unpretentious, the humble, the little ones did get Jesus and his message, which came from God.

Jesus does not promise to remove our burdens or yoke. Instead he will refresh us and make it light. Jesus speaks to all who are burdened. Jesus promises grace is there whenever our yoke and burden becomes overwhelming.

The poet W.B. Yeats had this to say: “Can one reach God by toil? He gives himself to the pure of heart. He asks nothing but our attention.” The way to find God is by attention to Jesus Christ.

Victor Frankel, the holocaust survivor, tells us #1. To live we must choose life, #2. To love we must encounter life, and #3. To grow we must suffer. Henri Nouwen, a Dutch-born Catholic priest tells us that we have been given disciplines to help us with the yokes and burdens in our life. #1. The discipline of the Book, in other words the Bible is a great source of understanding the Will of God in our life. #2. The discipline of the Sacraments, which support us in our challenges. #3. The discipline of the Heart, spiritual directors who accompany us on our journey of life.

Jesus is the source of our peace and rest. He it is who makes our yokes easy and our burdens light.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

“It takes a very long time to become young.”

Grown-ups love figures. When you tell them that you have made a new friend, they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you, "What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?" Instead, they demand: "How old is he? How many brothers has he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?" Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943

Gospel Text: (Matthew 11:25-27)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

Who finds God? The answer our scriptures give are those who are “childlike” or as some translations say “like babies” or “mere children”.

Jesus speaks out of his experience, the experience that the rabbis and the wise men rejected him, but the simple ordinary people of the land accepted him. In general the powerful and intellectuals had no use for him; but the poor and humble welcomed him. The most trusted of his disciples, Peter, James, and John were fishermen.

Yet it is not social class that matters, but the heart. Think of Nicodemus member of the Sanhedrin, the Roman centurion, Jairus the synagogue official, the well-to-do family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and Zacchaeus the chief tax-collector of Jericho. All of these had hearts that were open and ready to listen. What is the message we must hear? It is Jesus’ astonishing claim that only he can reveal the Father to us because he is the Son. If we want to see the mind of God, the heart of God, the nature of God, if we want to see God’s whole attitude toward us- Jesus says look at me!

And when we look we hear Jesus’ invitation: “..learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart…” Matthew 11:29.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The world's default mode is basic indifference

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.: (1929 – 1968: American Civil Rights Leader - Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches)

Gospel Text: (MT 11:20-24)
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

In the gospel, Jesus seems quite upset. I always try to pay attention when Jesus is showing great emotion. I have to ask, "Is he talking to me?" The historical reality Jesus is dealing with is quite applicable to us today. He has literally worked miracles in some of the towns he has visited and brought the Good News of God's love. And the response has been quite disappointing. When I was reading Pope Francis' encylclical, Laudato Si: On Our Care for Our Common Home, I got to the part where the Holy Father lays out this incredible story of what has happened to our planet and to the poor on the margins everywhere, and how the evidence of the degradation is so clear, and so much of the world seems not to want to respond. We deny that we are to blame and we sure don't believe we should have to change our consumption patterns to save anyone else. There is too often an indifference to the suffering and the chain reaction of consequences. I wondered what Pope Francis would do at that point in his letter. I was getting discouraged myself. I was so surprised and comforted, inspired and lifted up, because Francis expresses deep hope. There is hope that some people are responding. There is hope that small, local efforts are making a difference. There is hope that a number of conferences have raised the issues to a transnational level. He sees hope in the fact that many are beginning to see this as our common home and that dialogue is beginning. And, I see hope that Pope Francis is calling us to this dialogue and to a personal, local, national and international response, His heart must be full of grace. Even though he knows it will be a slow response, he trusts that God will bring healing and peace, rescuing us from what we have done and what we have failed to do.

Monday, July 13, 2015

“Skeptics always want miracles such as stepping down from the Cross”

“To know the Cross is not merely to know our own sufferings. For the Cross is the sign of salvation, and no man is saved by his own sufferings. To know the Cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ Who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then, to know Christ.” ― Thomas Merton, O.C.S.O. (1915 – 1968: American Catholic writer and a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani)

Gospel Text: (MT 10:34—11:1)
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”

When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.

We need to pay attention to the ways in which we are being called—commanded—to follow Jesus as his disciples. The cost of discipleship is not just to the Cross but through the Cross to new life! Where we will recognize and welcome the prophet, the righteous and most especially Jesus who is the Word made flesh. He is that sharp edged sword that can cut through the indecisions of our life, to inspire us when we are being called to take that further step in following him.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

In every man sleeps a prophet

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.  - Paul Simon: (1941: American musician and singer-songwriter)

Scripture text: (AM 7:12-15)
Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos,
“Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah!
There earn your bread by prophesying,
but never again prophesy in Bethel;
for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.”
Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet,
nor have I belonged to a company of prophets;
I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.
The LORD took me from following the flock, and said to me,
Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

When we were baptized we were anointed with holy chrism, and the priest said, "God anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Jesus was anointed priest, prophet and king, so you must live always as a member of his body -- priest, prophet and king -- ruler." We are called to be prophets. We are anointed as prophets. Yet that still seems strange to most of us, I believe, because we really do think of prophets as people who are other than ourselves.

It's important this morning to discover a little bit about what it means to be a prophet. First of all, a prophet is not someone who predicts the future. I think that's sometimes why we are unable to think of ourselves as prophets because we think we would have to be able to predict the future. But that's not what prophecy is. A prophet is someone who, as in the book of the prophet Isaiah, he speaks about himself: "God has taught me, so I speak as God's disciple and I know how to sustain the weary. Morning after morning, God wakes me up to hear, to listen like a disciple, someone learning God's ways."

A prophet, as Isaiah says, is someone who not only speaks for God, but who first listens to God. We have to be those who listen deeply to the word of God.

There's a story about St. Francis of Assisi that perhaps you've heard. He was telling his followers how they were to go out and preach -- "Go everywhere and preach God's words" -- and he said, "And if necessary, use words." In other words, you're going to preach more by the way you live, the example of your life, than you will by any words you say. Words can be shallow, empty, hollow, and hypocritical even, but the genuineness of your life is a message that will truly be heard. That's how we become prophetic.