At daily Mass a few weeks ago, the Gospel focused on John the Baptist. After reading the gospel, I told the story of a priest in our diocese many years ago who loved to talk. I had only been ordained a year or so when I first experienced this priest. At any and every opportunity he never missed the chance to share his thoughts and ideas concerning just about anything. He liked to think of himself as akin to John the Baptist—a prophetic voice for his time. It didn’t take me very long to realize, though, that he really wasn’t much of a prophet. Rather he was just an irascible man who, I think, enjoyed irritating people. I never learned the backstory of this priest. I suspect, as with all of us, there was a reason for his behavior. I did learn, though, never to sit anywhere near him whenever there was a gathering (large or small) of priests.
I do believe that prophetic voices still exist in our midst. These voices call to us in each of our lives. In helping to distinguish these voices, I’d like to suggest that there are at least three things that are common to these prophetic voices. The first is that their call comes from God. To be a prophetic voice it isn’t enough that an individual has something to say. Rather the impetus to say something comes from outside themselves. It comes from God. And if the prophets from the Old Testament are any indication, most often the person who receives a call to be a prophet is, at least initially, reluctant to respond to that call.
The second thing that is common to prophets is that while their message may irritate or upset people, there is a sense that there is something “right” about what they are saying. For myself, there have been numerous times in my life when I have not much liked what someone has told me, yet in the depth of my heart, I knew what they were saying had a truth for me and that, much as I disliked it, I needed to hear it.
The third thing about prophets is that they call people to see things in a new/different way, or to see a bigger reality. It is very easy for us to get so locked into a particular perspective or view of things/people. Prophets, though, call us to set aside our beliefs and presumptions, and to see things differently. They invite us to reformate our way of thinking/living and see things from a new perspective.
Now I mention the above, because as we begin a new year, I would like to suggest that it would be a good resolution for all of us to try to be open to those prophetic voices that speak and call to us in each of our lives. These are the voices that come to us from God. They call us to go beyond our comfort zones, to see things differently and to make some changes in our lives. And as noted above, we don’t have to like those prophetic voices that God sends into our lives. I do believe, though, that we will be better people if we hear and respond to them.