When I was studying scripture at the seminary we were asked to write about one of the prophets. I chose the Prophet Jeremiah. I have come to have great affection for him because he was a reluctant prophet. God wanted him to remind the people they needed to turn back to Him. Jeremiah protested. “Lord, look I don’t know how to speak. I am only a boy. God’s reply was “Don’t be afraid of them for I am with you to rescue you” Yet the people didn’t want to hear what Jeremiah had to say. The life of Jeremiah was filled with sadness and tragedy. His prophetic ministry from 627 to 586 b.c. witnessed the drama of sweeping international events in the Near East that ended with the capture and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, an event that Jeremiah had long foretold. Jeremiah was constantly having to tell God’s people things that they didn’t want to hear. He was seen as a pessimistic figure. Yet he was faithful and had confidence in God’s protection.
We are aware that we live in a world that has lost its bearings. It is good that at this time we are declaring that “Black Lives Matter”, that we making renewed efforts to stamp out racism but there is no united voice saying that life matters from the moment of conception till the moment of death. Many of the gospel values are compromised or ignored.
When we were baptised, the priest anointed us, saying “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” So are we all prophets today? We are a prophet in the measure that we bear the truth of God. This we do through our words and actions. We need to remind ourselves and others of the word of God, in season or out of season. Pope St John Paul II reminded us in his letter on the role of the laity that through our participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, “the lay faithful are given the ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil. United to Christ, the “great prophet”, we are called to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out every day in our family and social life, as well as to express patiently and courageously in the contradictions of the present age our hope of future glory even “through the framework of their secular life”.
In the gospel today, Jesus tells us not to be afraid of what others may think of us when we speak the truth that others don’t want to hear or disagree with. “To bear the word of God means to make oneself vulnerable to suffering, liable to be derided and misunderstood. God’s word inevitably encounters hostility and rejection, and those who present it often get hurt. It’s not unreasonable to be afraid of what might happen to us if we are serious about bearing witness to our faith” (Archbishop Pilarczyk)
Don’t be put off. Be a prophet. Jesus is with you saying, “Do not be afraid, I am with you”