For Father Richard, the power of the prophetic path lies in the tradition and example of the Hebrew prophets. In this excerpt from a series recorded in 1980, Richard describes how a prophetic imagination keeps the church and our faith alive:
In many ways, I think part of the explanation for perhaps the powerlessness of much of modern Christianity has been that it has lost touch with the Hebrew Scriptures. In particular, we have lost touch with the prophets. When we lose the sense of the prophets and their vision, we enter into a very overly spiritualized interpretation of Christianity. The prophets kept the word of God earthy. They kept it whole. They kept it real. They would not let us divide earth from heaven. They put heaven and earth together and they said, “It’s all one.”
The prophets speak out of a deep experience of God. It seems, somehow, that they’ve entered into the heart of God. They’re bold enough and brazen enough to almost dare to say, “I’ve seen God. I know what God thinks. I’m going to tell you what God thinks.” It takes a strange kind of self-confidence, and even inspiration, to be able to speak with the self-assurance of the Jewish prophets. I think what they give us are, among other things, new images. They give us new images by which we can capture and grasp reality. It seems that a failure of the modern church, maybe of the church in every age, has been a failure of imagination. The prophets explode our imaginations if we can learn how to listen to them and learn to understand the images and metaphors with which they speak.
Imagination is largely a matter of being able to re-image life in new ways. It is not to be caught or trapped in old images of hopelessness. When we’re trapped in old images, we keep living out of them, fighting against them, resisting them, and even saying they don’t work. But it seems we are incapable oftentimes of creating or even accepting new images and living out of those new images.
The prophets give us a sense of the possible. They give us a sense of the impossible, too. That’s why, frankly, they are so hard to listen to—because they explode our minds and push back the limits of our imagination. They increase our capacity to feel. They intensify our capacity for suffering. That’s why people don’t want to listen to them, because prophets increase our ability to feel what God is feeling. To feel God’s pain, God’s desire, God’s longing, and even God’s anger, if you’ll allow.
The prophetic path is a journey into the heart of God.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Prophets (San Antonio, TX: Catholic Charismatic Bible Institute, 1980), audio recording. No longer available for purchase.
Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Bosque (detail), New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10 (detail), New Mexico, photograph, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: This year’s images are inspired in form by the 2023 Daily Meditation theme. This week’s main photo takes up most of the image, but we also see a sliver of the image for next week: the next step on our journey.
Story from Our Community:
As a woman in my fifties, I am coming to the end of my life journey after travelling with cancer for a while. Your daily emails over the last few years have been such an immense blessing that I feel that I have been on retreat. There have been so many occasions of spiritual nourishment and teaching that have enriched these years and opened so many doors of learning for me. Thank you to Fr Richard and the team for your wisdom, kindness and action. —Siobhan M.