In Praise Of Prophets
Thoughts on the First Readings –by Joe Frankenfield
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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.”
Who are today’s prophets? If a prophet is a person who stands before people speaking God’s word, what does a prophet talk about in our country in our time?
I’ve met prophets in every parish where I’ve worked. None wore long robes or stood on the street corners predicting the end of the world, none of them rose up in church condemning the materialism of wealthy parishioners but they were prophets nonetheless.
Some refused to take revenge against people who had wronged them. Some turned down job promotions that paid more to spend more time with their families instead. Some refused to belittle political and religious adversaries who did not return the favor.
Some shared more of their wealth and possessions than others thought wise. Some reached out to folks everyone else spurned. Some always had a word of hope when things seemed to be heading down the tubes. Some were willing to question their most precious assumptions and listen intently to those who rejected their ideas.
Some always saw the promise in young people who made mistakes. Some were able to keep working hard when no one seemed to take notice. Some put everyone at ease in tense situations because they had a sense of humor that wasn’t taken aback by life’s chaos. Some just seemed to live a gentle but rock solid faith that evil wouldn’t have the last word.
People often think that prophets have to be extraverts but many that I’ve known are introverts. All have been humble: not I’m-a-nobody humble but very honest about themselves.
Being a prophet isn’t an optional activity for Christians. It’s central to the job description. The only question for us is what part of God’s promise to the world are we able to speak the most plainly.
One other thing about prophets. The job often goes unsung, even resented. After all, it often presents an unwanted challenge to the world around them. An unsolicited “Thanks” from those who understand helps a lot. I’d say it qualifies the giver as, at least, a prophet-in-support.