We All Need to Be Prophets

09-30-2018Pastoral ReflectionsFr. Brian F. Manning

When we think about it a bit, we come to realize that the great Liberator Moses was a surprising leader in many, many ways. Unlike most senior leadership people, this great man did not desire the role in the first place and he did not get to pick his assistant. God selected Aaron for him. It appears that Moses was humble enough to accept help from any source or person. Moses also had the additional help and gift from God of the seventy elders, for example, who received the gift of God’s spirit, which made it possible for them to prophesy.

In our story this weekend two more men began to prophesy, yet Moses was not worried or upset, in fact, he was delighted. Did he think he would be so gifted with help? He rejoiced in the unexpected generosity of God instead of being so picky and critical of the help God gave him.

In this weekend’s Gospel passage, Jesus faces the same issue of the unexpected gift of help. We learn that miracles were being performed by people who did not know Jesus, and these people were not from his chosen few. Note how Jesus is not upset by this news. His response reflects the response of Moses. It is clear that anyone who works miracles in the name of Jesus can hardly be against him. Someone has caught the power of the Spirit and is acting for God and God blesses this.

We say we believe that the Spirit is at work in the world, and consequently we would do well to recognize this. We must be open to the imaginative, lively and life-creating Spirit. The first reading and the Gospel clearly assume that the Spirit is at work in the world and the task of individuals, institutions and most especially ourselves is to promote that work, not deny or suppress it.

We all know and admire spirited people. They are the folks who brighten and enliven our daily lives and who challenge and disturb our lives. They are usually the people for whom things deeply matter, and also are people who draw our attention to what really matters. These people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and races. We can find them everywhere, within and outside of our faith communities. They seem to possess God’s ear and speak God’s mind. We have a name for spirited people, we call them prophets. Are you aware that prophets are Spirit-filled and Spirit-driven? They do not so much predict futures as remind us of our heritage, our past in terms of understanding our future. They anchor us to our calling, God’s promise, our dignity as children of God. They are at the same time the most conservative and progressive of voices. The prophets speak God’s will, no easy or appreciated task.

Who speaks on behalf of God is often controversial. It is often the small or unknown voice that actually roars. Prophets are not usually the institutionally selected leaders; prophets are usually leaders because of the people’s sense of authenticity and faith. We all need to be prophets who speak about God by our lives and then by our words. Will folks sense our authenticity and faith?

Father Brian