Spiritual Reflection – Prophets
The saying about prophets not being welcomed in their own country has been a solace to many of those who are alienated from the community in which they live. They seem to believe that anyone who is not accepted must automatically be regarded as a prophet. Perhaps they forget that there are many reasons why people are rejected or feel rejected. Sometimes it is because of their bad conduct or wrongful attitudes. Sometimes we can be complicit in our own marginalisation, knowing that there is a certain freedom that comes from living on the fringe.
Neither acceptance nor nonacceptance is a guarantee of the authenticity of prophecy. There were plenty of false prophets during Old Testament times—in fact, Elijah slew more of them in a single day than there are true prophets—and most of those false prophets were very popular. Real prophets were outsiders, scorned by the people and persecuted by the authorities, but they remained tireless in bringing the word of God to those to whom they were sent. The genuineness of prophecy is not assayed by its reception. The only criterion is the truth of its message. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Real prophecy is more than information: it speaks to the heart, it communicates energy. It is self-legitimating.
The word of God has the power to produce results beyond the prophet’s capabilities: Moses was not a good speaker, Jeremiah was only a boy, and Isaiah was a man of unclean lips. Yet when they uttered the words that had been given them by God, they spoke with authority—the same quality the crowds later recognised in Jesus. True prophecy has power; false prophecy is nothing more than mere words, a puff of wind with no substance or endurance. Real prophecy has substance. Those who do not listen to the ones God sends set themselves not only against the prophet but also against the authority of God. “This is judgment: the light came into the world and people preferred darkness to light.”
We are all prophets, and we can know that our message is true if it touches the hearts of our hearers, if it brings with it a surge of energy, if it leads them to a fuller faith. If, on top of that, we suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel, then surely this adds extra credibility to our message.
Michael Casey. Balaam’s Donkey: Random Ruminations for Every Day of the Year. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2019. EBook Location 5620.