Would that all the People of the Lord were Prophets

Reflection for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time by Rhett Engelking
This reflection was originally posted in our September 21st newsletter.
This Sunday will be the day that will cap off what will no doubt be one of the most historic moments in the history of the papacy. Pope Francis will have been the first faith leader to address a joint session of a very polarized Congress, he will have addressed unprecedented challenges of the global gridlock with regard to the climate crisis at the United Nations, and he will speak of the challenges our immigration policy poses to religious freedom. There will likely be no shortage of surprises coming from this remarkable man’s presence in America, however one of the most spectacular sights that will accompany the pope’s visit will be the throngs of people who support his message and yet do not identify as Roman Catholics. Jesus tells us, “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.” What does it say when so many non-Catholics work tirelessly to make this Christian spectacle a reality?

When a prophet speaks, the most tempting fear they experience is the fear of speaking alone. We can hear Moses speak with full awareness of this fear in this Sunday’s first reading. “Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” The gravest, most unforgiveable sin according to Jesus is a sin against the Holy Spirit. If we are to take that pronouncement to a logical conclusion, it would seem that to suppress a prophet would be an unforgiveable gesture, and yet that happens all the time. It seems blatant when a Congressional representative who took a pledge of inaction refuses to attend the Pope’s address and thus puts a sort of gag order on prophetic pronouncements of ecological reform. Yet even further, as this passage from the earliest church demonstrates, sometimes trusted church officials stand in the way of the prophetic voice of those the LORD might bestow the Holy Spirit upon. Yet such suppression seems almost commonplace. When in Laudato Si, Pope Francis urges all people of goodwill to “Hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,” he is urging us to hear the cries of the prophets, and he is not referring to his voice in Congress but unheard voices.

When Paul speaks of “fattening our hearts for the slaughter” he is engaging what can be called the inaction of the heart. Fat is no more than a body’s unused potential, a means to an end. This is the wisdom in Fasting: we are called as Christians to be lean of heart. Those courageous souls who have been fasting for the climate in preparation of the Pope’s visit are recognizing that by halting the cycle of consumption, they are uncovering new depths of spiritual potential that have otherwise been simply accumulating without action. As Americans searching for a prophetic voice, we must recognize that the prophetic potential of the Holy Spirit has been a part of our hearts all along and that Pope Francis has not come to America to wave a magic wand to make all of the cries of the earth and the poor disappear. He has come to speak on behalf of those cries and would that we might all join him in the chorus. If Pope Francis’ visit is a resounding success, it will not come because of the prophetic words that he shares on the biggest stages. The true success of a prophet comes when the spirit stirs the hearts of new prophets. Will you be one?

Rhett Engelking
Director of Franciscan Earth Corps

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Published in: on September 22, 2015 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  

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