In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about John the Baptist. He asks the people, “What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? . . . . A prophet? . . . . And more than a prophet. . . . .”
Hebrew scriptures present many prophets. The prophets were dynamic. They challenged people to listen, to change and to follow. Some stood up to kings to support justice, like Nathan did when he told King David that he had sinned against God and Uriah when he stole Uriah’s wife and then had Uriah killed. Elijah did something similar when he stood up to King Ahab accusing him of having the just man Nabaoth killed because he wanted Nabaoth’s vineyard. The prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be a king and then, after Saul did not carry out God’s commands, he anointed David.
Some prophets spoke in symbolic ways, like Hosea. He took Gomer, a prostitute, as a wife. She was unfaithful to him as a sign of how the people had responded to God’s gifts. Some prophets were members of the King’s court, like Jeremiah; others were everyday people, like Amos, a trimmer of Sycamore trees. The prophets were different from one another but their message was the same, “Repent and Reform.”
The message was continued by John the Baptist as he called people to the Lord. He didn’t hedge on the truth. He didn’t tell people what he thought they wanted to hear. He didn’t go along with the morality or immorality of the day. He was not a reed shaken by the wind. He proclaimed the truth. And the truth attracted people. His baptism was a baptism of repentance, and people willing to be plunged into the Jordan River determined to change their lives.
What do we go out to the desert to see? A reed shaken by the wind? Do we come to Church to receive a lovely emotional experience with a wink towards morality, an implied permission to join the immorality of the day? Do we want our priest and deacons to proclaim a new morality, one which is not authentic? No, we go to Church for the grace and the encouragement to stand up to the pressures of society.
Who do people who come to you see? You have members of your families, friends, workmates, classmates etc. who come to you with their questions. Are they coming to see a reed shaken by the wind? Or are they seeking someone who is willing to tell the truth of the Lord? You are prophets. We all are. A prophet is someone who is committed to the truth of God. People come to us all, priests, deacons and people of the parish, to hear the truth. People have a right to hear the truth. Catholics have a responsibility to proclaim it. The truth is attractive. It leads us to a better understanding of whom we are. It directs us to where we can find happiness. Truth is attractive because it sets us free to be whom God created us to be.
This Sunday is Gaudete or Rejoice Sunday. It is the Sunday that we focus on the joy we have that the Lord came into the world and will continue to come into our lives. We love Him. We want to follow Him. And yes, that might mean denying ourselves what everyone else says is the new way of life. But we refuse to deny ourselves that which really matters, the Presence of God.
The world needs prophets. The world needs people who will live the Truth of God as well as proclaim His Truth. We need prophets. And we need to be prophets for others. Our courage to live our faith will bring others to joy.
We pray today for the courage to live our faith, the courage to be Prophets of the Truth, the courage to be prophets of the Lord.
Used with permission of the Author, Rev. Joseph Pellegrino Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL