Who would you consider a prophet? Would it someone whom you feel comfortable with? Is it someone whom you agree with? Or could it be someone whom you feel acts differently, says confrontational things, or wants to help out all people. Today I would like to talk about prophets including Jesus of Nazareth.
This Gospel story is a continuation of the Gospel story we heard last week. We heard that Jesus walked into a synagogue and was given a scroll that the prophet Isaiah had written being the anointed one and one that did many, many miracles. He ended with saying, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing". This meant that he was saying he was the same kind of prophet of Isaiah. The men in the synagogue were astonished. Many were filled with rage upon hearing this. Many kept shouting that that this man, Jesus, was the son of Joseph of Nazareth? This is a very humiliating statement because they knew that Jesus' father was a lowly carpenter. How could such a man speak in the temple when his father was unschooled and was without a privilege in his community?
Jesus went to on to talk about Elijah who was a recognized prophet, but not a Jewish prophet. The men were upset that Elijah went to a widow in Zarephath not part of the Jewish nation. Jesus also brought up the name of the prophet Elisha, a non Jew, who healed a man Naaman the Syrian. The temple goers thought that all healing should be for the Jewish people. The other people in the lands around Israel were not important.
The rage of the men in the temple became so great that they escorted Jesus right out of the temple drove him out of town, and led him to the brow of a high hill.
Jesus walked through the men and was not thrown over. Jesus miraculously survived. The men in the synagogue were outraged, jealous, and did not respect Jesus. Their rage at him was unmistakable. Jesus had compared himself to Isaiah, the prophet, and had suggested that the scripture Jesus read was fulfilled in their hearing. He said a very important fact, "No prophet is accepted in his native place"!! How right that is!!
What does a prophet look like? What background does he or she have to come from? Do we have to like what the prophet says? Have you ever had the experience of being "rejected by your own people? Think about the times you have been the only one in a group that favored a certain outcome and the other ninety-nine opposed you. It was not a good feeling. Did you feel as if you should quit making that suggestion again because of the pain of rejection and hostile words?
A prophet can be a lonely person who seems like he or she is on the outside of a group, a family, or a community. In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah always was asked by God to do difficult things. And if you remember he always complained to God when he had to do prophetic things. But the main thing about Jeremiah is that he always listened to God, for God kept telling him to do these things over and over. I always think that God is a nag to the prophets. God always tells the prophet over and over what to say and do. In my experience God keeps asking me do something even though we do not want to.
This has been happening to me for a long time now. I used to ignore the little messages of God because I would say to myself I cannot speak, I do not know enough about the subject, or I am too afraid. The pressure often became intense and I knew I had to speak or do an action. When I continued to hear the messages from God to become a priest I always felt foolish and ill at ease. I gradually stepped out slowly and said that that a priest could be a woman.
Has God been telling you to do something or to step out and say something that you know is going to be difficult? All of us have times in our lives that we hear God's voice in our mind and heart telling us to speak out. These are the times that it is so important to speak gently and poignantly to express our opinions and suggestions because we feel that God is urging us. These are the times that we have to be brave and strong and do what God is asking us to do. It is not easy because none of us like criticism and to be laughed at.
We also have to be ready to listen to people who have divergent views from ours.
There are many struggles going on in our country and the world. Right now people are discussing about the budget, immigration, violence continuing in our schools and streets, health care and many other issues. I like to think that certain prophets might be speaking to us to help us resolve these issues. We have to be ready to hear them. They might look different from us, speak in louder voices, or come from a different culture, or live in a certain part of our country. We just celebrated Dr.Martin Luther King's anniversary last week. When he was leading marches in Selma and in Washington, DC there were many of us that did not know what he was doing. Dr. Martin King now recognized as being a prophet.
When women did not have the right to vote, Katy Stanton and others led the movement to give women the right to vote. Now it is accepted practice for women and men to vote.
The main message of the Gospel today is to listen to what God is telling you. Jesus had a hard time accepting that he was going to die on the cross. He asked God if the crucifixion had to happen when he was in the Mount of Olives. He was a faithful prophet that did what God asked. You remember, too, that his followers did not pray with him but fell asleep.
We will always be asked by God if we want to do something. We can always say yes or no. It is important that we listen to what God is asking us and that we listen to what others have to say. Then we will to come to the conclusion that is right for ourselves and right for the world.