Last Sunday gospel told us about doubts of people in the home town of Jesus. He himself summarised that situation in the words: “a prophet is only despised in his own country”. These words make clear the reason of my stay in Scotland instead of Poland.
It’s quite common belief that a prophet means a person who foretells the future. But this is not the biblical meaning. In the Bible a prophet is a representative of God, a person who announces God’s will to the people and appeals for them to fulfil it. A prophet interprets current moral and social situations in the light of God’s word and finally comforts people in distress or calls them to repentance. Usually a prophet speaks about the consequences or promises connected with fulfilling God’s will – sometimes these gained deeper meaning concerning the future. Let me give you one example. King David wanted to build a temple for God. But the prophet Nathan told him that his son will build it. He meant Solomon, David’s successor was to build the Jerusalem temple. But the promise gained another meaning with the coming of Jesus – he has built the real, everlasting temple for God. Neither the prophet Nathan nor David had an idea of such a meaning.
In today’s first reading we see that being a prophet was not connected with priesthood. Quite often prophets were calling the priest class of Israel for repentance. Perhaps we remember the prophet Joel, whose speech is read on Ash Wednesday: “Between vestibule and altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, lament”. In sight of God there is no exception – if anybody strays, he or she has to repent; even the pope.
Jesus has given a new meaning to being a prophet. Because he presents an image of a loving God the Father, any service performed in his name must be driven by love and compassion. So, as we see in today’s gospel, Jesus sends the Apostles on a hard mission: to bring the good news about a loving God, to bring comfort to the distressed, to release those who are possessed by the devil. Compassionate love, not anger, must be their driving force.
You might wonder whether there is a place for prophets in our society, where almost 50% of the people declare no connection with religion. The answer is obvious – as a sense of religion deteriorates so new problems appear. Our western society is becoming the society of lonely people surrounded by other lonely people. The people, who are distressed, depressed, lost… The people who destroy their own lives looking for love.
In some particular way we, Christians, are in a better situation. We can be comforted by God himself: in personal prayer, through the sacrament, being part of a community. Saint Paul says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father and God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows, so that we can offer other, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves.” (2 Cor 1,4)
Our world needs prophets. Our society needs prophets. They need you.