Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 14, 2016 – Year C
Jer 38:4-6, 8-10 / Ps 40 / Heb 12:1-4 / Lk 12:49-53
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
The readings today are about being a prophet and what is liable to happen to you if you are a prophet. We have to be sure that we don’t confuse ‘prophet’ with ‘prophecy’. A ‘prophecy’ is a prediction about the future. And while many prophets will prophesy, that’s not their primary function. If you’ll notice in the Bible, when prophets are prophesying, they’re typically only pointing out the inevitable conclusion that will occur if things continue going the way they are now. It’s not generally a mystical vision that they’re revealing to the people.
It may surprise you that we are all called to be prophets. When we were baptized, we became sons and daughters of God, and we became disciples of Christ. One aspect of that discipleship is to be a prophet, because a prophet’s primary function is to speak the truth.
If you look at the Internet, on Facebook, or if you go to the websites of any of the news media outlets and read the comments, especially during an election year, you will see that there are some prophets out there. And sometimes you’ll actually see some good prophets. The problem is quite often the people who are acting as prophets are not very nice.
My wife and I were talking about this yesterday, and I think she summed it up pretty well. She said, “If you can’t picture Jesus saying something, maybe you should re-phrase it.” And I think that’s a good way to think. You’ve heard the expression, “What would Jesus do?” Part of that is, “What would Jesus say?” And also, “How would Jesus say it?”
But Jesus is also God. Sometimes it’s a little hard for me to look at what Jesus did, and the way He acted, and see how I can apply that in my life. And not only how to apply it, but how I can possibly do what He did. Fortunately for us, Jesus is not our only example. We have the saints. And lots of times the lives of the saints are examples that are much easier for us to relate to and to apply.
Maybe it’s because I recently spent a few days in a Franciscan retreat center, but I personally think St. Francis is one of the easiest examples to follow. For me, he is extremely easy to relate to. In fact, St. Francis even inspired a Jesuit to take his name when he became Pope. Think about that for a second. And I think the Holy Father embodies the spirit of St. Francis beautifully.
I call this the ‘Francis Filter’. (I may have actually coined that phrase. I did a Google search, and I found nothing, so I’m going to take credit for it.) For me, the Francis Filter works like this: When I have to speak up, I take a deep breath and I pray to myself, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.” And it helps me. It helps me to calm down, and it helps to speak with love.
Pope Francis is a master of this. Think about it: While he’s pleading for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, he’s also embracing Muslim refugees. And while he is reiterating, without change, the Church’s teaching on marriage, he is encouraging everyone to express kindness and understanding toward people with same-sex attraction. And while he is encouraging good stewardship of the created world, of the environment, he is also reiterating the Church’s teaching on respect for all human life.
So I’ve decided to create a little mash-up prayer. I call it my Prophet Prayer. And I would invite you to pray it with me now. And I think you’ll recognize where I stole parts of this from. Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace and kindle in me the fire of Your love. Help me to always speak the whole truth in the way I live my life. And when I must speak, may it be as Jesus would speak, with wisdom, and love, and may I never compromise Your teaching in the way I live my life and in the words I say. Amen. In the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.