Prophecy: Does it still happen? Where have all the prophets gone? Where are the Isaiahs, Jeremiahs and Ezekiels of the past? In the New Testament, Paul says, “God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers” (1 Cor. 12:28).
What are you looking for in a prophet? But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house” (Mark 6:44).
Would you recognize a prophet today if you met one?
A prophet, Archbishop Jose Rodriguez Carballo, secretary of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, says is one who, “calls in the name of God, denounces in the name of God, announces in the name of God and intercedes before God.”
In the Old Testament the prophet’s job was to:
- call the people back to God and to the truth of God;
- denounce by warning the people of the consequences of their actions and a call to repentance;
- announce God’s love for sinners;
- intercede before God in His promise of eternal redemption through the coming of Jesus Christ the Messiah.
The prophets were messengers of their day whose message was set in the historical situation of their time and culture. It was a call to conversion which may have been prompted by a need for social, political or spiritual change within the nation. To understand and respond to the prophecy we must see Our Lord as the center of the prophecy. In this way even though the prophecy may be spoken in a particular generation, it builds on the truth of the past and has its consequences not only in the present but also for future generations.
An example from Isaiah 52:13-15 of the “Suffering Servant” 800 years before the Crucifixion of Our Lord reads,
“Behold, my servant shall prosper, and he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. As many were astonished at him – his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men – so shall he startle many nations;…”
At the time of Isaiah’s ministry the Hebrew nation was torn between those seeking alliance with Egypt and those seeking alliance with Syria. Isaiah sought to call the people back to God by forbidding them to seek alliances and instead to place their trust in God. Although the nation in one sense was prospering, he denounced the idolatry, corruption and personal immorality which was leading the people astray.
Isaiah, prophesied to all classes of people in Jerusalem, announcing the holiness of God over human idols and calling them in humility to see themselves as the “servants of God”.
More than any other prophet Isaiah is preeminently the Messianic prophet interceding before God for the people by foretelling the future coming of Christ and His glory. Isaiah instructs the people that salvation will be through the Messiah, who will achieve this through his resurrection and ascension, but at the cost of a suffering that will “startle many nations”. Crucifixion and scourging were the Romans’ cruelest punishments to make suffering as horrible and painful as possible and were reserved for non-Romans. Therefore, this suffering servant is the only one who can possibly deliver his people.
So, where are the prophets of today? Prophecy is found in our baptismal consecration by living out the call to defend truth, human dignity and Christian values when they are trampled upon and not supported in society or political circles. It is to take a risk and challenge social conventions. Our baptism reminds us of our stewardship in caring for others.
Recently, Pope Francis has also reminded consecrated women and men “to wake up the world” and to “be prophets.”
“A religious must never give up prophecy . . . . Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say ‘a mess.’ But in reality, the charism of religious people is like yeast: prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel.”
Religious demonstrate a different way of living but that very way of living should be attractive to others. Jesus was always moving about; and we by moving around to the peripheries will see things from a different perspective, one we could not envision simply from the center. We will experience a greater reality of life and be better able to speak in the light of Christ. We will be in a better position to call, denounce, announce and intercede with God for our brothers and sisters.
If prophecy is a gift of our Baptism, then even more so is it a Gift of Religious Consecration since that Consecration derives from our Baptism and enables us to stand on the threshold of eternity as a witness to the Light of Christ!
Our Mother Foundress, Mother Maria Luisa Josefa, often used the expression, “Adelante!” A fitting term for one who picks up the banner and boldly forges ahead!