This week, Sr. Clare explores the deeper meaning of our call as Christians to ‘be prophetic.’
By: Sr. Clare Hunter, Director of the Respect Life Office
“Be prophetic. Be faithful. Pray.” [Tweet this.] These were the humble suggestions that Cardinal Robert Sarah gave at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2016. Cardinal Sarah spoke courageously about the current crises in our world, beginning with the liquidation or elimination of God, as well as the catastrophic effects of the loss of human dignity, the redefinition of marriage, family and the human body — he did not hold back. As a priest who endured the horrors of a Marxist-fashioned regime in his native Guinea, he knows the reality of speaking the truth, despite popular opinion, governmental punishment and death. In his words, “I realized the worst thing that could happen was death.” And so he is tireless and undaunted in speaking about the demonic attacks against humanity, marriage and family.
CNS photo/Bob Roller
Be prophetic. Exactly what does it mean for a Christian to be prophetic? We are much more comfortable with the idea of being a disciple, which ironically sounds a bit less threatening. Cardinal Sarah’s words might make many of us nervous as we recall the stories of prophets: John the Baptist lost his head and Moses never got to see the Promised Land. We can at least take solace by recalling that many refused and argued with God first, or even ran away from his call. What they all had in common, however, was that they all claimed that they were unqualified for the job: too young, stuttering problem, too sinful, unlearned, etc. Prophets, or disciples, are not qualified, they are called. If Pope St. John Paul II was correct in stating that “every vocation has a profoundly personal and prophetic meaning, ” then we must come to understand that God’s call to each person is intrinsically prophetic and by hearing and accepting this call, each can proclaim the greatness of God who is its source. The particular call of the prophet is to “prepare the way of the Lord,” to make room in the heart for God. In order to make room, something must go — be it ignorance, worldliness or selfishness. Pope Francis reminds us that, “being prophets may sometimes imply making waves…. prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’” So it seems that Cardinal Sarah is challenging us to make…a mess!
A number of years ago, Pope Emeritus Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, gave an interview on the idea of Christian prophecy. He makes clear that “the essential element of a prophet is not the prediction of future events; the prophet is someone who tells the truth on the strength of his contact with God; the truth for today, which also, naturally sheds light on the future.” In light of Cardinal Sarah’s words, we see that he is not calling us to be dooms-day-prophets, nor, quite frankly, to share our feelings about God. Clearly, a prophet is given a mission, from God, to speak about God, about truths and laws from God that are being ignored or abused in 2016. Cardinal Ratzinger added that the prophet is to render “the truth of God present at this moment in time and of pointing us in the right direction…. the word of the prophet has a particular function in that, that the faith is essentially understood as hope in Him who will come.” So, yes, we are to be like John the Baptist:
“A voice of one crying out in the desert; “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:4-6).
Exactly how much are we willing to give? How uncomfortable are we will to be? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
We are to be that voice! But will anyone listen? It doesn’t matter. Clearly, from past examples, it was never really about success in numbers. It was about the prophet’s fidelity to God and to His Truth. The whole point was to demonstrate their filial love and obedience in God. It was never comfortable, easy or lucrative. In fact, it was sacrifical, embarrassing, lonely, life threatening and, sometimes, crucifying. Yet, at the same time, joyful and life giving. And so, as Cardinal Sarah challenges us to “be prophetic” we must engage a culture that has eliminated God, and risk being rejected by loved ones, neighbors and colleagues. Truthfully, I think we are exhausted by mediocrity and we can all admit, that what we thought would “do it” for us, isn’t working. There has to be more to life than what the world has to offer. In the words of the prophet Cardinal Sarah, “be prophetic.”