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Offering Hope

Prophets

Offering Hope
Friday, September 15, 2017

Today, John Dear offers six more qualities of a true prophet. Click here to read the first six characteristics.

Seventh, a prophet confronts the status quo. With the prophet, there is no sitting back. The powerful are challenged, empires resisted, systemic injustices exposed. Prophets vigorously rock the leaky ship of the state and shake our somnolent complacency. . . .

Eighth, for the prophet, the secure life is usually denied. More often than not the prophet is in trouble. Prophets call for love of our nation’s enemies. They topple the nation’s idols, upset the rich and powerful, and break the laws that would legalize mass murder. The warlike culture takes offense and dismisses the prophet, not merely as an agitator but as obsessed and unbalanced. Consequently, the prophet ends up outcast, rejected, harassed, and marginalized—and, eventually, punished, threatened, targeted, bugged, followed, jailed, and sometimes killed.

Ninth, prophets bring the incandescent word to the very heart of grudging religious institutions. There the prophet confronts the blindness and complacency of the religious leader—the bishops and priests who keep silent amid national crimes; the ministers who trace a cross over industries of death and rake blood money into churchly coffers. A bitter irony and an ancient story—and all but inevitable. The institution that goes by the name of God often turns away the prophet of God.

Tenth, true prophets take no delight in calling down heavenly bolts. Rather, they bear an aura of compassion and gentleness. They are good and decent, kind and generous. They’ve learned to cultivate joy and now exude joy. . . .

Eleventh, prophets are visionaries. In a culture of blindness, they offer insight. In a time of darkness, they light our path. When no one else can see, the prophet can. And what they see is a world imbued with God’s purposes: a world of justice and peace and security for all, a world where all of creation is safe and at rest. The prophet holds aloft the vision—it’s ours for the asking. The prophet makes it seem possible, saying “Let’s make it come true and we shall be blessed.”

Finally, the prophet offers hope. Now and then, they might sound despairing, but only because they have a heightened awareness of the world’s darkest realities. These things overwhelm us; we would rather not hear. But hearing is our only hope. For behind the prophet’s unvarnished vision lies a hope we seldom understand—the knowledge that God is with us, that the kingdom of God is at hand. To realize that hope, we must trust ourselves to plumb the depths and trust God to see us through.

Gateway to Silence:
Do not be afraid.

Reference:
John Dear, The Beatitudes of Peace: Meditations on the Beatitudes, Peacemaking and the Spiritual Life (Twenty-Third Publications:2016), 117-119.

John Dear is a member of Pace e Bene, a movement that seeks to build a culture of peace by mainstreaming active nonviolence. Learn about Pace e Bene’s week-long Campaign Nonviolence, September 16-24, 2017, and how you can participate.

Image credit: Jeremiah (detail), Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, 1511, Vatican City, Italy.
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