For theologian Megan McKenna, the biblical prophets carried a painful burden on behalf of truth and justice:
The prophets ached over injustice and were torn to shreds by it. They had no life but God’s honor—which was the only hope of the poor. They were reminders in the flesh of that honor—painful, angry truth-tellers who knew what was wrong. They made people nervous, sick to their stomachs, vicious, and self-righteous. Or worse, after all the reactions, the prophets were ignored—the people didn’t change, didn’t convert. And then the prophets’ words came to pass: the warnings, the threats, and the punishments that were the natural consequences of people’s behavior came about.…
The prophets’ vocation is to cry out—to God, to the air, to any open heart; they cry out on behalf of God and on behalf of the poor because no one is listening except God. They cry out for those no one heeds, except maybe in passing in lip service.…
The prophets often see us as nearsighted, meaning we can only see what is immediately under our noses, connected to our own lives. We have lost sight of the vision of hope, of the future that God intends, while we have been concentrating with total self-absorption on our own immediate desires. We are like drivers lost in a fog of our own obsessions, unable to see the road clearly. And so we need the prophets, the far-seeing ones, the dreamers in broad daylight, the long-distance high beams that show us glimpses of where we are going and what the outcome of our choices and lifestyles will be. One way to define a prophet is a person who sees so clearly what is happening in the present moment that he or she can tell us what is going to happen if we don’t change immediately and radically.
McKenna tells of the transformational wisdom behind the prophet’s dramatic messages and methods:
The prophet uses every resource at his or her disposal. Weeping, raging, crying out, criticism, blessings and curses, storytelling, singing, dramas acted out, possessions and even cities destroyed, food eaten or left to rot, ingenious set-ups and insults—all serve only one purpose: the conversion of heart and the doing of restitution to rebalance and heal the world again. However prophets may prophesy, their integrity is shown by the way in which they give up their very lives as testimony and witness as they side with the forgotten and the lost ones and loudly proclaim that God, who is aware of their pain and feels their suffering as [God’s] own, will not allow that pain and suffering to continue. God is not indifferent to or far from anyone’s life, but rather draws near to those who know pain because of the sin and indifference of others. The prophet loudly insists that God is not impartial and that God will not allow anyone who professes belief in the Holy to harm another.
Megan McKenna, Prophets: Words of Fire (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 2–3, 19, 22.
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:
My husband, my soulmate, with whom I prayed everyday, died recently from a heart attack. My husband was a man of great insight and loved to listen to me read your Daily Meditations out loud. He called this ritual of ours his “coffee with God.” We did everything together. He would sit and meditate and also use the prayer cards from the many funerals we attended and pray for each person according to the month of their passing. I continue to read the Daily Meditations to help me deal with his loss. I am delighted to join you on this next “path” because I desperately need to accept his passing. We were married for 52 years. —Helen M.