On this Independence Day weekend (14th Sunday in Ordinary Time), all our Scriptures have to do with prophetic living. So let’s take a look at what that means for us as we are citizens of the kingdom of God living where we do today.
The first thing I noticed was the reaction Ezekiel had as God spoke to him. The Scripture says that it “set him on his feet.” I’m wondering what God could say to us, especially living such privileged and comfortable lives, that would set us on our feet and catch our attention. What could God say to us that would impel us to live prophetic lives in our churches and families and country? How can God get our attention? We’ve heard the Scriptures so often that they sometimes just don’t affect us at all. We go to church, hear and read the Scriptures, receive the Eucharist and then go about living non-prophetic lives. Will it take serious disease or a great loss before we actually can pay attention?
It is pretty clear that people knew that Ezekiel was a prophet not so much by what he said, but by how he lived. He spoke truth even in the face of power and he was willing to upset economic and social structures in order that the word of God might be fulfilled. The reading from the Gospel of Mark reminds us that it is easier in some ways to be a traveling prophet than it is to try to be a prophet at home. At home we all have our regular roles and duties out of which people form expectations around our lives. They don’t expect us to be filled with wisdom if we’re not considered a wise person in their eyes. People who know us well know when we’re saying one thing and living a different way. They can spot our hypocrisy and feel our duplicity.
It seems that St. Paul is trying to get us to examine what prophetic freedom looks like. When he addresses the Corinthians, he talks about embracing weakness, insults, hardships, persecution and constraints and being content with all of those. For that to happen, we must exercise true freedom to let go of our positions of power and security so that our weakness is apparent and clear. In this place in Scripture and in many others, it seems clear that God’s power shows through our weakness. But how often do we try to obscure our weakness through arrogance, pride or by blaming others?
There is a lot of self examination and cultural examination going on at this point in our history. We are slowly opening up to the ways that we have enslaved fellow human beings and used other people who we thought less important than ourselves and experiments for medicine and research. We are constantly examining and coming to grips with the effect of abuse committed by bishops and priests on children and vulnerable adults. We are slowly uncovering the terrible ways that indigenous people have been treated all over the world, including our own country. We are still experiencing prejudice among us today because of skin color, religion, nation of origin, language spoken, sexual orientation and gender. Not a single one of us is comfortable examining those past and present weaknesses, but we have certainly learned that not facing them causes even greater damage and such a loss of credibility.
Being a prophet doesn’t mean yelling at other people or even telling other people how to live. It begins by the kind of life we live in the example that we set. It seems that the Scriptures are inviting us to look at our weakness as the source of God’s strength. Might we take some time this week to admit our weaknesses, especially in the ways that we treat other people in our families, in our neighborhoods, at our places of work and in our country? Can we be humble enough to admit mistakes and make amends to those who have been hurt by those mistakes? Can we acknowledge where we still make choices of hatred and separation when we know it’s not the right thing to do? Our individual and corporate sins are a great place to try to start living prophetically. If we do this, people will recognize that a prophet has lived amongst them.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.