Weekend Reflections for 1/26/18
Our prophetic mission
As Pope Francis stresses, we Christians ARE a mission, we don’t simply HAVE a mission. This Sunday’s bible readings specify the prophetic dimension of Jesus’ mission and our own.
We probably have a variety of images of prophets: angry preachers, wonderworkers, frenzied lunatics, magicians, seers, visionaries, mediators, martyrs. Many people asked Jesus "are you the prophet?" and he was ambivalent about answering this question directly. What is the essence of Jesus’s prophetic mission? He kept on pointing to his deeds, and people learned who he was more by what he did than by anything he said. He was, then, a new kind of prophet, one whose words became deeds. He spoke with power, authority to change things. Biblical scholar Eduard Schweizer put it this way: "In Jesus' word heaven breaks in and hell is destroyed. His word is deed. God's rule is at hand, evil has no ultimate power."
But even Jesus' words are not so magical that they coerce or force. His miracles do not cause faith, but call us to faith. His words/deeds are invitations to faith, hope, love – service. We witness this prophetic vocation in prophetic witnesses in our world: Martin Luther King, Archbishop Romero, Dorothy Day, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, our American Bishops' prophetic teachings about peace and justice, challenging people with words which must not be just words, but become deeds, as Jesus's prophetic words did. They invite commitment, they still demand faith, the kind of performative faith we are called to develop through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius at White House.
What about us? How often are our words out of sync with our deeds? Does our retreat experience flow into prophetic deeds as we cross that exit and “enter into the mission field,” or just words, words and more words? We too are called to a prophetic mission. May our words become deeds with the grace of God in Jesus and the help of St. Ignatius’s First Principle and Foundation that “love shows itself more in deeds than in words.”
Fr. Edward B. “Ted” Arroyo, SJ.