There are scores of examples in Sacred Scripture of God’s call to be a prophetic people. We witness it in the Hebrew Bible when God calls individuals like Moses and Jeremiah and Amos, but we also see it in a broader context. God calls all women and men to be prophets because God calls us to see the world as it really is and recognize the disconnect between the lives which we live, the societies we construct, and the behavior that unfolds and the way that God intends the world to be. There is such an enormous gap between these two realities and a prophet’s call is to draw our attention to that gap in order to inspire change.
In the coming months, especially in one of my scheduled talks at the 2017 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, I will be reflecting on fear and its relationship to Christian living. In a nutshell, I am convinced that fear is the enemy of Christian discipleship, fear is what paralyzes the otherwise well-meaning individual or community from doing what God has called us to do, from being what God has called us to be. It is no accident that Jesus tells his followers—including us—that we should “be not afraid.” When we succumb to fear, we neglect or even outrightly reject our prophetic call.
We are blessed to have many examples of Christian living, both ancient and new. Among the more recent models for responding to God’s call to be prophets—to see the world as it is, announce the gap between our lives and what God intends, and to denounce that injustice—is the martyr Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador.
Among his many powerful writings, he identified the threats we face as Christians striving to respond to the prophetic call.
Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists, and all the epithets they put on us, we know that we only teach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down to proclaim “Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who thirst for justice, blessed are those who suffer.”
There is a lot of fear and hate in our society these days. Some of the fear is reasonable given the marginalized groups of women and men who have been threatened by the language, actions, and attitudes of a not-so-small population of people in this country. And yet, for those for whom the threat isn’t as immediate, for those for whom privilege of gender, race, or class provide a layer of social protection, keeping in silence and shrinking from the prophetical call only perpetuates the structures of sinfulness that oppress others and continue injustice.
May we, like Romero and many other before us, not shy from the task placed before us to embrace the prophetic call we have received at Baptism. Indeed, the teachings of Christ have “turned everything upside down,” so that the wisdom and logic of God appears like foolishness to those who operate according to the systems and vision of fear the world provides (1 Corinthians 1:1-31). May we say “yes” to the call placed before us, risking the appearance of foolishness to do what is right, to stand up for those who have been silenced, and to live the Gospel as we claim to do.