Father Richard describes how the prophet’s truth, message, and authority come from an experience of the heart of God:
What the prophets were doing was creating an alternative consciousness. Now, that isn’t easily created. Most of us are formed, and our thinking is formed, by the dominant consciousness. We are shaped by the way everybody thinks, by the way the culture thinks. What the prophet dares to do is step into the middle of the dominant consciousness and create an alternative, a new set of possibilities. There’s a different way of looking at this. And of course, what the prophets presume is that the way they are sharing with us is the way that God looks at it.
We have to accept the premise that the prophet truly believes they are speaking for God. That’s an extraordinary thing. The prophet believes that they speak for God, and they dare to say it again and again, as a very bold statement: “Thus says the Lord.” They say, “The Lord says this to Zion,” and “The Lord says this to Jerusalem,” and whatever else it might be. The prophet is speaking to the culture, and yet is not afraid to stand against it, to present the people with an alternative, God’s alternative.
All this is based on the prophet’s belief that they have somehow entered into the experience of God. They have entered into the heart of God. So when the prophet sees non-compassion, when they see a hard heart in the hearts of the people, the prophet says: “I know for certain that you do not know God, because the heart of God is compassion. If you do not live with compassion, then you have not entered into the heart of God, because I’ve been there, and I know the heart of God is compassion. You are hard-hearted, therefore, and your word is not the word of the Lord, because I know God.” How bold and how beautiful, that the prophet can speak with that kind of authority and that kind of assurance.
The prophet claims that they have had an experience of the heart of God, and therefore they judge human reality on that basis. And that’s what makes the prophets such absolutists. They are not afraid to generalize. They are not afraid to make sweeping allegations. From our limited and finite perspective, we say to ourselves, “Well, come on, Amos. You’re overstating your case. It’s not that bad.” We always want to say that to the prophets, don’t we? When we’re reading, we think, “Come on, cool it a little bit.” We don’t have the boldness, the assurance, and the inner authority that the prophet seems to have. They dare to believe and even know, that they are speaking for God. I guess if we had that kind of assurance, we’d speak with boldness, too. We’d say, “This is it.” That’s why it’s hard to listen to the prophets.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Prophets (San Antonio, TX: Catholic Charismatic Bible Institute, 1980), audio recording. No longer available for purchase.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10, 8, and 13. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
Prophetic truth catalyzes us to stop avoiding uncomfortable truths.
Story from Our Community:
After 30 years of addiction, I finally made it into the rooms of AA. By the grace of God, I’ve been sober 17 years. As part of my 11th step work, I’ve read many of Fr. Richard’s books and faithfully read his daily meditations as they continue to feed my journey. This year’s theme promises to be exciting and enriching. This past week has been most impactful. I’ve always thought Bill W. should be canonized as a saint if he were Catholic, but now I know he was a prophet! It really makes me wonder what God spoke to him in his hospital room when he had that spiritual awakening. I’m so grateful every day for God’s intervention in Bill’s life and his willingness to trust and obey God. I’m grateful for my life today!