Our dear friend, Fr. Michael Schleupner, offers another poignant message today. We recommend reading the reflection and then googling this statue that Fr. Mike refers to (images are copyrighted so they cannot be used on our blog). As we reflect and prepare for Christmas in just a few days, how are you listening, speaking and working? How are you doing this during the pandemic?
John the Prophet
In the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, there is a large sculpture of Saint John the Baptist. The sculpture is located between the ocean and a main highway in San Juan. The interesting thing is how John is portrayed. He stands with his head tilted down and his eyes looking down at the highway. But his right arm is raised above his head with his index finger pointing up to the heavens. This depiction says a lot about John the Baptist and other prophets.
John and the Other Prophets
In today’s gospel, John is asked: “Are you the Prophet?” – spelled with a capital ‘P’. Here the word Prophet means the Messiah or Savior that God has promised. John replies that he is not the Prophet in that sense.
But, in truth, he is a prophet – spelled with a small ‘p’. He is the last of a long line of Old Testament prophets who were preparing the way for the Savior whom God promised.
As the sculpture in San Juan depicts, John and other prophets are looking closely at everyday life. But they are doing this from a heavenly perspective – with their finger or mind pointed up and focused on God.
We as Prophets
Maybe we have never thought about it before, but we and all baptized persons are called to be prophets. In the Rite of Baptism, we are anointed with consecrated oil with these words. “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live.” So, we are to live as prophet. We will leave the Priest and King parts for another time.
For today, the question is: what does it mean for us to be a prophet? Well, it definitely doesn’t mean living in a desert or dressing differently like John did. In fact, being a prophet is to be part of ordinary, everyday life. I think we can summarize what it means in three statements: We are to 1) listen to God, 2) speak for God, and 3) work with God.
- Listen to God
First, we are to listen to God.
This can be a quiet five minutes early in the morning before the busyness of the day starts. Or it can be a quiet thirty to forty seconds at a stop light. Or it can be reading and reflecting on a passage from the gospel.
Making time to listen to God may be challenging, but it is important. It is our way of having our arm above our head with our index finger pointed to God. It’s our way of inviting God to guide us in all the stuff we do in the course of a day.
- Speak for God
So, 1) listen to God, and then 2) speak for God.
Today’s gospel says that “John was sent from God to testify to the light.” John’s role was positive – to testify to the light and not just curse the darkness. And, as John says, the light is Jesus and his message. So, as prophets, we speak for God when we affirm the good behavior or accomplishments of our children. We speak for God when we assert or lift up something that we believe without putting down someone who believes differently. Speaking for God like this is the way of the Christian prophet.
- Work with God
Finally, we are to work with God.
The idea is that God needs us to be his hands and feet in the world. So, following the images of Isaiah in the first reading, we work with God when we prepare a casserole for the Our Daily Bread program. We work with God when we comfort someone whose heart is broken by the death of a loved one. We work with God when we are with those imprisoned by depression or loneliness.
So, we are to 1) listen to, 2) speak for, and 3) work with God. That’s the way to be a prophet of the New Testament and to live out our baptism.
~Fr. Michael Schleupner
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