Our world is full of life-killing propaganda about security, happiness, comfort, status, power and wealth. We are bombarded with messages telling us we are not good enough, secure enough, happy enough.
These lies prophets recognize immediately.
The Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel, in his study of prophets, wrote, “The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumption, its complacency, waywardness and syncretism. He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected. His fundamental objective was to reconcile man to God…due to man’s false sense of sovereignty, to his abuse of freedom, to his aggressive, sprawling pride, resenting God’s involvement in history.”
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus, the greatest of all prophets, called out the superficiality of those chasing him after his multiplication of the loaves and fishes. He challenged them to work instead for “food that lasts, the food of eternal life.”
He expounds further, in verses beyond verse 29, that he, himself is the bread of life. As believers he wants us to literally consume him. We become one with Jesus and, in this unity, we live as Jesus lived: doing the Father’s will. His grace and power carry us.
This is revolutionary. It is life giving and life changing. We are transformed in our surrender to God, as Stephen was: speaking to the Jewish establishment of his joy, his passion, his enthusiasm. He “…was full of grace and power, (and) began to work great miracles and signs among the people.” His prophetic zeal to do God’s work soon cost him his life.
In our essential daily quiet prayer time with God, the Spirit guides us in sorting through the noise, lies and propaganda of modern life. Hidden in the recesses of the din, the Spirit whispers.
If we listen closely, we will receive the insight of what God wants in this moment of our lives. Living prophetically follows, if we choose. It is risky, as Jesus’ and Stephen’s stories reveal, but it is the only path to life.
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionists Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office, state legislator, and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.