Searching for prophets in life
Who is serving as a prophet for us? For whom are we prophets?
Third in an Advent series
By Sr. Peg Gabik
During this third week of Advent, Matthew's Gospel (Mt 11:2-11) focuses on the ministry of John the Baptist. John is in prison and reevaluating his claims about Jesus being the Messiah. Somehow, Jesus isn't living up to all his expectations. John expected that God would take over by force and solve all the world's problems.
So how was Jesus going to make the "crooked" world, straight? After all, John noticed that Jesus was just sort of hanging out with people. In fact, John even heard that Jesus had attended a wedding feast in Cana!
John: 'Are you the one?'
So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one to come or are we to wait for another?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: blind ones see, lame ones are walking, lepers are healed, the dead arise, and the good news is spreading."
Now John has to reevaluate his beliefs and his worldview. Jesus challenges John's idea of who God is and how God will act in the world. Jesus had become a prophet to John. The same John who had spent his whole life being a prophet to others.
Jesus suggested that our actions can speak louder than our words. Prophets remind people of things they need to hear, but do not always want to hear. For that reason prophets are appreciated by some and condemned by others.
As Christians, we are invited to listen and let ourselves be challenged by prophets like John and Jesus. Who are prophets to you? To whom are you a prophet?
Since the September terrorist attacks, we have heard many stories that remind us that people are good and others that challenge us to care more for our neighbors.
When I work as a counselor, I believe God sends me clients that invite me to look at the unhealed pieces and relationships in my life. Each client shares a piece of God's love with me. Sometimes, my clients also challenge me to change some of my behaviors.
In working with young adults, I met a 20-something prophet, who gave up a high paying finance position, to take a position that paid less but gave her more time to volunteer regularly at a local food pantry.
Beattle searched for God
As stories recount the life of George Harrison, they mention his faith and his life search for God. It invites me to hear, "My Sweet Lord," with different ears. Harrison is also credited with initiating concerts for charity events starting in 1971 for the starving people of Bangladesh.
In preparing for a prayer service, I read a short biography of Dorothy Day. She took the Sermon on the Mount to heart by opening houses of hospitality and starting the Catholic Worker movement in 1933. Her approach of direct service led to an uncompromising commitment to nonviolence. She has become for many a modern American saint.
Recently, I spent time with one of my Dominican sisters. She told me that she had just celebrated her 89th birthday and was praying for the courage to face death. She then shared her recent dreams that offered her comfort. She told me, "God took my hand and said I am with you always. I will hold your hand even in death." Her story brought tears to my eyes.
Why am I so gifted?
All the time she is talking about her dreams, I wonder why I am being so gifted to hear her story.
She thanked me for listening and said she hoped it would offer me comfort too. She said she had a sense that I needed to hear a message of comfort too.
How right she was! It is a month later, and I still vividly remember her story. I also remember that I am being offered comfort every day by a God who became incarnate in our world and understands pain. How easily I forget when the times get tough.
Who are the prophets in our lives? How are we prophets to others? How do we profess/share Gospel goodness? How do we let our lives speak of God?
(Sr. Gabik is a Racine Dominican, who works as a counselor for Catholic Charities and as a consultant for young adults/adults in the diocesan department of Total Catholic Education.)