Sunday, 8 July 2018
A Prophet’s Reward, 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
In today’s Gospel we heard the Lord Jesus refer to Himself as a prophet, while in the first reading we heard God sending the prophet Ezekiel to the people.
Being a prophet isn’t an easy thing.
Being a prophet is a deeply unpopular thing -prophets carry words from the Lord that people usually don’t want to hear, almost always being words calling for repentance, to change your life.
The typical pattern, therefore, was that the prophet was killed. So typical a pattern was this that we hear, elsewhere in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus pointing out the irony of people building monuments to honour the prophets, but these same prophets had been killed by their forefathers (c.f Mt 23:29; Lk 11:47).
Being a prophet is deeply unpopular.
There is thus an old warning sometimes given to priests, “If you play the prophet, you’ll receive the prophet’s reward”
Why then did the Lord want to be prophet?
I think this is a useful question because it points out to us that, as with everything, He did it not for His benefit but for ours.
What did He receive?
Hatred, and the Cross. Yes, ultimately, the definitive reason they killed Him was His claim to be God (see Palm Sunday 2017 sermon). But His long-term unpopularity with so many was the fact He played the prophet.
What this highlights, however, is that He calls us to repentance, He calls us to change our lives, not for His benefit but for OURS.
He loves us so much that He is even willing to receive “a prophet’s reward”, just as long as He is able to proclaim to us what we need to repent of.
As I was pondering this, I thought about two prophetic words of the Lord, two prophetic criticisms, two calls to repent and change, that might be particularly relevant in this HOT weather.
The first concerns purity and chastity. I think that for men, in particular, this is a difficult season to be chaste:
There is much uncovered flesh paraded down the high street and is requires EXTRA vigilance on a man’s part to avert his eyes, and to guard his subsequent thoughts.
Yet, this is exactly what the prophetic words of the Lord say:
Anyone who “LOOKS at a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”(Mt 5:28).
Elsewhere He warns that it is precisely what is WITHIN a man, the ”evil thoughts” and the “sexual immorality”(Mk 7:21) that makes a man unclean.
Yet, the thing is this: the reason He gives the unpopular prophetic moral criticism is to enable us to achieve the promise that comes with it:
He promises that the “PURE of heart... will see God” (Mt 5:8) -those who have not let their eyes and thoughts and heart wander to the flesh, they will have hearts pure enough to see God.
A second prophetic words for the hot weather:
The call to not WASTE our TIME.
In the heat we can all be prone to wilt and do less, to fail to get on with those errands and tasks, to fail to live the fulfilled life God call us to.
And, among other texts, the parable of the talents warns us USE our time, use our abilities.
Again, a prophetic moral critique, offered to enable us to achieve the goal he call us to to: fulfilment, not a wasted life, a life of wasted talents.
As a prophetic word in the heat, we might ask ourselves how well we’ve done so.
To return to where I began:
The Lord Jesus was a prophet. He called people to repentance and change.
And that’s an unpopular thing.
He did it, He endured unpopularity, for our sake, to point out to us the life we can live.