Two Views of Prophets
With the final words of our first reading, “Israel went into rebellion against David’s house to this day”, we hear the end of the united kingdom made by David Judah and Israel. The prophet Ahijah dramatically performs what will happen as he tears his new cloak into 12 pieces in the presence of Jeroboam. Ten of the twelve are given to Jeroboam, these will be the Northern Kingdom of Israel, made up of ten tribes; the tribes of Judah and Benjamin will be the Kingdom of Judah in the South. Jeroboam will rule the ten tribes of Israel and Rehoboam will be King of Judah, ruling Judah for seventeen years in Jerusalem, ‘the city in which, out of all of the tribes of Israel, the Lord chose to be honored’ (1Kings 14:21). The worst is yet to come!
A pattern is being set. The word and action of a prophet will announce the important events among God’s chosen people. History will be written as the sequence of prophetic words and their fulfillment. We can understand history in the words of the prophets. This is good to remember as the daily readings from the Old Testament this year are mostly the prophetic books.
When we hear Mark’s story of Jesus healing the man who cannot hear or speak very well we are coming at the prophets in the opposite direction! The Old Testament is preparing us for what will happen through the prophets’ words, but with Jesus we see results, the fulfillment of the prophets. Jesus miracles are God’s power at work among us bringing wholeness for which we long.
How are our prophetic skills? At Baptism we were named prophets, as well as priests and kings or queens, when the fragrant chrism oil was placed lavishly upon our heads celebrating the gift of the Holy Spirit. We bear a fragrance that lingers for a lifetime. Two prayers will follow, one speaking of our white baptismal garment, the other speaking of the candle to be kept burning brightly as make our journey with Jesus who leads us to the banquet table in our Father’s house. Then we hear the prayer fashioned on today’s gospel. The ears, eyes and mouth of the baptized are touched with the prayer of prophecy fulfilled. Although our senses are touched it is not a prayer of healing. Indeed we have just been anointed with the Chrism and our dignity proclaimed. This prayer speaks of how God now works among us: ‘may year ears be open to hear the voices of God in all the ways God will speak to you; may your eyes be open to see the wonders of God in the people and events that will fill you; and my your lips be open to laugh and to learn the languages of men and women, so you may give God praise’. In the Holy Spirit we go as prophets to do the work of Jesus.
As prophets we also announce what will become history. We are proclaiming the victory of the Cross. We do not condemn or say ‘we told you so’ as it sounds a bit like the prophets in Israel are doing. We know our history is the victory of the Cross. We want to proclaim God’s wisdom despite its appearance in the eyes of the world as foolishness. We are prophets of hope instead of doom, prophets of mercy instead of vengeance, prophets who try to live in this moment of our fragile world the victory that will be seen as history for all of us in God’s own time.
Fr. William Murphy, CP, is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.