Amos was one of God’s witnesses. Happy was he tending his sheep and taking care of the sycamore trees. But then God interrupted his rural life and sent him forth to prophesy. It was not his choice; he would have preferred a different path. But Amos was one who listened to God and followed in the Lord’s ways. We know he paid a heavy price for being a prophet.
In her book, “The History of God,” Karen Armstrong comments: “Primarily the prophet is one who stands in God’s presence, but this experience of transcendence results not in the imparting of knowledge — as in Buddhism — but in action. The prophet will not be characterized by mystical illumination but by obedience.” Amos was obedient. And though he had a deep experience of that mystery of God, his “claim to fame” was his fidelity to his vocation.
St. Paul was one of God’s witnesses. This apostle to the Gentiles knew himself to be chosen before the foundation of the world. Paul became one of the greatest witnesses to the person of Jesus in all of Christian history. Paul felt the healing, redemptive work of Jesus. Thus his letters and preaching are filled with praise of a God who lavishes divine love upon sinful humankind. Paul cannot contain his joy.
Kathleen Norris offers this insight into the prophetic call: “A prophet’s task is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the worlds we invent for ourselves, the national myths as well as the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day. And Jeremiah does this better than anyone” (cf. “Cloister Walk,” p. 34). Well, if Jeremiah is the best, St. Paul is a close second. He, too, reveals our sins and “little lies.” Paul, too, points us toward the mystery of a God of love and mercy.
Jesus is the witness of the mystery of God. In him we are given access to the meaning of grace and divine mercy. But Jesus developed a commissioned ministry program and sent out his disciples to be, in turn, witnesses of the kingdom. Off they went preaching repentance, driving out demons and anointing the ill. They made God present through these various ministries.
All are called to be God’s witnesses through our baptism. All of us, by the lives we lead, are to make manifest God’s tender mercies.
Questions for reflection
1. How are you a prophet?
2. What is the task of the prophet?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.