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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - You Are Called to Be a Prophet

Robert Barron - You Are Called to Be a Prophet

Robert Barron - You Are Called to Be a Prophet
TOPICS: Prophet

Peace be with you. Friends, our marvelous first reading for this weekend is taken from the second chapter of the book of the prophet Ezekiel. And it recounts Ezekiel's prophetic call, the moment when the Lord summoned him to prophesy. So it's a parallel text to chapter one of Jeremiah. Remember, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; a prophet to the nations I appointed you". It's also parallel with chapter six of the prophet Isaiah. That's when we hear of his prophetic call, when the Lord was suddenly present to him in the temple and so on. Now, it's very important that we all attend to these stories. Why? Well, because every baptized person is a prophet, is called upon in some way to speak the word of God. So these are not just curiosities from an ancient time. They're about us. So the Church invites us to listen attentively. Here's how it begins. "He [the Lord] said to me: 'Son of man, stand up on your feet, and I will speak to you.'"

Now, there's a lot packed into that little line. See, standing was the attitude of prayer and worship in ancient Israel. You would stand in the synagogue, or stand in the temple to pray. That's why the person that Jesus cures bent over for a long time. It's not just the healing of a physical illness. It's preparing that person to pray again, to stand in the presence of the Lord. But it also speaks of attention and full engagement. Stand up on your feet. God does not deal with puppets. He doesn't want us to be puppets. God wants us fully engaged, listen now, cooperating with his purposes. So, in short, he's inviting Ezekiel to stand on his own two feet and fully and worshipfully attentive to the Lord. Not bad. Not bad as a description of how we ought to be in the world: standing up, engaged, attentive, in the attitude of worship. And then the Lord says, "I will speak to you".

Now, it's very important in our time, when we put such a premium on our own voices, right? Finding my voice, giving me a voice. And look, I get it. I get it. If people are oppressed for long periods of time and they do need to find their own voice and assert their own prerogatives, I do; I understand it in a political sense. But the Bible is not interested, particularly, in our finding our voices. The Bible is much more interested in listening to the voice of the Lord. It's not, "Well, let me tell you what I think". "Ho-hum," says the Bible. No, no. "Stand up on your own two feet, stand up attentively, and now I," the Lord says, "will speak to you".

I've often drawn attention to the way St. Paul presents himself in his letters. "I, Paul, summoned, elected, chosen, sent". In other words, Paul puts himself relentlessly in the passive voice. He's not saying, "Hey, I Paul, I got something great to tell you people. I figured something out. I figured out a new spiritual path". Forget it. Bible's not interested in that. "No, I've been called. I've been summoned. I've been elected. I'm an Apostle. I've been sent by someone higher than myself". What matters finally is what God wants, what God says. Okay? So what does God say to Ezekiel as he calls him to prophecy? Listen. "I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me".

So Ezekiel is in exile when he hears this. He's in Babylon. But he of course is an Israelite. So he's not being sent to the Babylonians. The Lord could have said, "Hey, now that you're there, I'm going to make you a prophet to the Babylonians". Mm-mm. "I'm going to make you a prophet to your own people. To Israel, I will send you". Though this was written a long time ago, everybody, I think it has enormous resonance for us right now. All you prophets listening to me, and I mean, again, everybody who's been baptized: To whom are you being sent today? I'm going to wager very few of you are being sent by the Lord to foreign lands. Some are. Great. God bless them. But I'd say most prophets today are being sent to their own people, as Ezekiel was sent to his own people, Israel.

What do I mean? I mean, we are all now under the aegis of the New Evangelization. This goes back to the Second Vatican Council. It is certainly proclaimed by St. Pope Paul VI. It's given classical expression by St. Pope John Paul II. It's continued by Pope Benedict and now continued by Pope Francis. What's the New Evangelization? Not so much evangelizing those who've never heard the Gospel, but evangelizing those who have heard it, but who have rebelled. Again, listen to the Lord to Ezekiel: "I am sending you to your own people, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me".

What is characteristic of so many of the secular cultures of the West? They're cultures that had heard the word of the Gospel. I bet almost everybody in the West could tell you the basic story of Jesus. But they've rebelled. What is secularism but a turning away from the message of the Lord, turning toward the world radically. I'm going to say this little line from long ago is being spoken to you, listening to me right now. You've been sent as a prophet to the rebellious house of Israel, to a culture that knows the Gospel, but has turned from it. Okay? What else do we hear? The Lord goes on: "A nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn".

Okay, prophets, what's the Lord telling Ezekiel and us? This mission is not going to be a walk in the park. If you think, "Hey, I'm a prophet. I've been called by the Lord to announce his word. This is going to be fun". Well, think again. If you've been called to prophesy to a nation of rebels, trust me, they are not going to like you. They are likely going to find your words rather off-putting, offensive, insulting. If this doesn't sound familiar to you, I would invite you any time of the day or night to go on the internet. And when someone is announcing the Christian faith to our culture, look at the comboxes. Go on Twitter sometime and see the reactions when someone announces in rather unadulterated form the Gospel of the Lord. They are not met with rose petals, trust me. They're met with an awful lot of resistance, an awful lot of hostility.

Find this language everywhere on the internet: "Religion is just a pathetic holdover from the past. It's a tissue of lies and superstitions. It's bronze-age mythology". The Church's teaching, especially in the areas of sexuality, strikes many people today as repressive, anti-humanistic. Classical Christianity seems to be the enemy of freedom and autonomy. In a word, we have a culture that's heard the Gospel, uh-huh, but has grown rebellious against God, if I can be as blunt as Ezekiel is. These rebels are indeed impudent and stubborn.

Now, prophets, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying this is the whole story. Look, I'm involved in trying to evangelize the culture. I think there's all sorts of points of contact, all kinds of ways that we can reach out with the Gospel. Don't get me wrong. But this element is certainly true. When you take up the task of prophecy, you will be opposed. The Lord goes on. He says to Ezekiel, "I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.'" You're not to convey, Ezekiel, your own ideas, your own words, your particular perspective, even on religious matters. So, Ezekiel: "Here's my private religious opinion".

The Lord doesn't care about that. Rather, he is to convey the word of the Lord, a word that has come from a higher place, a word uttered by a higher voice, beyond his own conscience, beyond his own mind, beyond his own immediate experience. So when we share with people the prophetic word today, as we are called to do, we are not simply speaking out of our own experience or sharing our own ideas. We're speaking the word of the Lord. Now, I'll make that more concrete. That means that the Bible shapes our speech. That means that the dogmas and doctrines and teachings of the Church shape our speech. That means that the saints, those who have played this game with particular panache, the saints shape our speech.

Listen, if all we say to the skeptical rebellious culture are words they can hear from the popular culture, words they can hear from a secular psychologist, then we are not speaking the word of the Lord. We're speaking our own words or the words of some avatar of the culture. No, no: "I am sending you, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.'" That's how we preach. That's how we speak. Now, the final word of this reading I think is of utmost importance. Listen now: "Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them". That's marvelous stuff for any prospective prophet, and that's every baptized person. Right? Again, "Whether they hear or refuse to hear".

So, you're preaching the word, not your own word, not the word of the regnant culture. You're speaking out of the Bible. You're speaking out of the Church's great tradition. You're summoning people to faith. Well, do they hear? Yeah, some do. And I can testify to that. We have marvelous testimonies of people who have responded to the work that we've done. Many don't hear. That's true. Many protest, and they're angry, and they walk away. Okay. Maybe that isn't primarily our concern: counting up who's listening, who isn't. "Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they shall know there has been a prophet among them".

I find, everybody, sometimes it's the very people who are most rebellious against the message who deep down, because they tell me this later, who deep down appreciate that something really distinctive has been said. They have been touched by the prophetic word, even as they react against it. See, finally, I'll quote Mother Teresa here, we're not called to be successful. I'll leave that up to God. We're called to be faithful. We're called to be faithful. You're all summoned to be prophets. Every baptized person listening to me right now: you're all summoned to be a prophet. We've got the blueprint right here: Ezekiel chapter 2. Will they listen? Well, I don't know. Some will, some won't. But by God, they should know that a prophet has been in their midst. And God bless you.
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