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The Prophetic Path - Love and Liberation
The Prophetic Path - Love and Liberation

The Prophetic Call to Life 

Friday, August 18, 2023

Richard Rohr describes how God shaped the prophets’ hearts, and how our hearts are changed through their ministry:  

At the center of the prophets’ ministry is their awareness of the transcendent God who is above all things and yet within all things. God’s presence cuts across all boundaries of space and time, and there is never any place or event from which God is absent. The prophets’ consciousness was filled with that awareness of God’s presence, a presence which was inescapable once they became attuned to it.  

What God was doing in their heart was loving them to life. God was loving them, calling them, and drawing them to God’s own heart. God had loved Israel to life when they were still enslaved. God invited them to life when God gave them the Torah to follow. God drew them to life when they had given up on life, in exile. In the prophets’ own experience of the call to divine life, they could see that same pattern repeated over and over in the history of their people. 

God’s call to life was, at the same time, a call to love. Drawn into the love of God, the prophets loved YHWH with all their heart and soul. They loved their own people and with clear insight saw that living in the love that is God implies hospitality to strangers, charity to the poor, justice for the oppressed. [1]  

The biblical text mirrors our own human consciousness and journey. Life itself—and the Scriptures, including the prophets—is always three steps forward and two steps backward. It gets the point and then loses it or doubts it. Our job is to see where the three-steps-forward texts are heading (invariably toward mercy, forgiveness, inclusion, nonviolence, and trust), which gives us the ability to clearly recognize and understand the two-steps-backward texts (which are usually about vengeance, divine pettiness, law over grace, form over substance, and technique over relationship). [2]  

The amazing thing about the prophets’ message is that it’s so simple. When we first read through the prophetic books of the Bible, it looks like we are taking two steps backward: pages and pages of prophecies about this, that, and the other thing. The prophets rail against idol worship and speak about death and destruction. But when we read the prophets again and again, we are struck by their “three steps forward” direction of justice, mercy, consolation, and love. We begin to see the central insight which arranges the parts into a single whole. The insight is the love of God, experienced and lived.  

The experience of God’s love is an experience of grace, overwhelming beauty, and unbelievable mercy. It is a gift of forgiveness, approval, and acceptance. To live in that love means to live in grace, to be gracious and merciful to others. It means extending to them forgiveness and approval and acceptance. As Jesus said, it even means loving our enemies. The prophets stood in the heart of that experience. [3] 


[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr and Joseph Martos, The Great Themes of Scripture: Old Testament (Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1987), 77–78. 

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 6–7. 

[3] Rohr, Great Themes: Old Testament, 78–79. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Taylor Wilson, Field of the Saints (detail), print. Taylor Wilson, Isha (detail), watercolor and cyanotype. Taylor Wilson, Ruah (detail), print. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Artist Statement (Taylor Wilson): This collection is an exploration of iconic visuals.… Playing and replaying with what the ancients already knew and then taking the responsibility of sacred knowledge forward through modern expression with the Spirit. 

Story from Our Community:  

I’m so moved by this year’s theme of the prophetic path. No topic has been more meaningful and hope-filled for me than the need for public lament. I am grateful that so many of us as a community will continue to lament together as we pray for our communities and the health of the natural world which gives us life. We mourn together in the everlasting faith in a God who is Love. —Linda J.

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The Prophetic Path

It can be easier to turn away from suffering than face it with an open heart. That’s why our 2023 Daily Meditations theme, The Prophetic Path, empowers us to not avoid or fear the pain of the world, but turn toward it with compassion.

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