A prophet’s message can be affirming, challenging

People very often misunderstand the role of a prophet. A prophet speaks for God. Often the prophetic message is a warning for people to change the direction of their lives. It would be similar to a person seeing an automobile driving down the wrong side of a highway. An observer might scream out, “If you don’t move over to the correct lane, someone might be killed.”

The person is explaining the consequences of this erratic behavior. The prophets often did the same thing. They warned the people of the consequences of their behavior. If they did not turn away from their evil ways, some type of disaster would take place.

A prophet’s message could also be affirming to some and challenging to others.

The Hebrew prophets and Jesus himself insisted that caring for the poor and downtrodden should have a high priority in the religious life of their hearers. This implied that a good portion of the income of those who were prosperous should be dedicated to those who had little or nothing. This message is very affirming for the poor but very challenging to those who have more than we need.

Jesus’ teaching that we must love people of all races as brothers and sisters in Christ and treat them with justice and respect is very affirming for minorities. However, this may be challenging for many who belong to the white majority and continue to harbor racial prejudices.

The Gospel message that proclaims that we should treat men and women with equality in the church and in society is very affirming for women. However, this can be very challenging for many men, especially those in positions of power in the church and in society.

When Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, the people rejected him because they found his message too challenging. It was in the synagogue of Nazareth that Jesus first proclaimed his mission as described by Isaiah the prophet: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me and sent me to bring good news to the poor, to recover sight to the blind, to release prisoners and to proclaim a year of favor from the Lord.”

His description of God’s Kingdom as an all-inclusive love was too much for some to handle.

It was very affirming to the poor, the blind, the lame and the oppressed. It was much too challenging to those who felt they were privileged by not being listed in that number and felt no need to include all people in their circle of love and care.

All of us have been blessed with prophets in our lives. We all are familiar with the famous ones recognized and honored by the church and society. Countless other prophets have affirmed us or challenged us: family members, teachers, friends, colleagues and maybe even some enemies. With the eyes of faith, we can now look back in our lives and see that God was speaking to us through the many people who affirmed us or challenged us.

We may regretfully have to admit that sometimes we did not realize that God was speaking through them and we missed a wonderful opportunity of growth. Yet we can count ourselves blessed for all the times we did recognize the extraordinary voice of God in those ordinary people who influenced us in a remarkable way and helped us grow.

Christ has called us through our Baptism to be prophets of his Gospel and wants to speak through us to affirm and challenge others regarding Gospel values.

Use your gift as a prophet. Speak to people who are going the wrong way. Comfort those in pain. Stand up for the values of Christ. Be an advocate for social justice.