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Bishop's Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Who are you to be a prophet? Who gave you the authority?

By Bishop Larry Silva
July 04, 2021

[Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Honolulu]

Yesterday I watched the livestream of the ordination of a new bishop in Texas.  At the end, he thanked many people, including the Pope, cardinals, archbishops and bishops, for their support.  But the first ones he thanked were his parents.  They were the primary prophets in his life who first told him about the love of Jesus and who taught him to live that love concretely in his life.  They were not great theologians, and if they had tried to give a theological discourse, people would have probably said of them, “Who are they?  Don’t we know them?  Aren’t they ordinary people like us?  Don’t we know their family, with all its blessings and foibles?  Yet, those parents, in their simple ways, were true prophets of the Lord for their children and many others.

When we think about the prophet Amos in our first reading, he, too, was criticized and ridiculed for being a prophet of the Lord, but in this case he himself reminded people that he was no trained or professional prophet, but rather a shepherd and a tender of trees.  It was God who made him a prophet.

When we reflect on our own community, there is such a need for prophecy.  There are many who are adrift in life and try to fill the void in their lives with alcohol, drugs or pornography.  There are others who do not value marriage or family, and yet others who want to value them but have little idea how to act in a good marriage or a supportive family, because they never experienced one.  There is the growing number of homeless people, a culture of suspicion of anyone in authority, and a notion that honesty allows one to say mean things to people.  There are those who are bullies in preaching against bullying.  There are those who think that advancing the equality of women justifies abortion, or that only one race is capable of being racist.

The solution to all of this is very simple and very complex at the same time.  It is simple, because Jesus is still with us and is anxious to perform his miracles of healing and reconciliation among us.  These are not just things he did in the past, but because he is risen and alive, he continues to do them to this very day.  But it is complex because the living Body of Christ is us, the baptized, who are in intimate communion with Jesus and who have the mission of performing miracles in his name.  It is complex because we think of ourselves in the same way the people of Jesus’ hometown thought of him.  Who are you to be a prophet?  What are your qualifications and credentials?  Who gave you the authority?

It is complex because we often back down when we hear these kinds of questions posed – even when we pose them of ourselves.  And so we sit back and become spectators of a deteriorating culture rather than prophets.  So we need to reflect on this mission.

First of all, it is not a mission we take on ourselves, but one that Jesus himself gives us by virtue of our being members of his Body, the Church.  If we take it on our own authority, we will fail, but if we humbly accept the anointing of the authority Jesus gives us, he will triumph.  Secondly, we must be rooted in him.  This is why our celebrating the Eucharist every Sunday is so important, so that we can be in physical communion with the risen Lord, and he can guide us.  Thirdly, we need to be in constant communication with him, discerning his will – not ours – in prayer, and especially in our reflection on the living Word of God, the Scriptures.  And finally, we must realize that living our faith is much more than simply gathering together where it is nice and safe in the parish.  It means going out, getting our hands dirty, and engaging the world that is so much in need of honest prophecy, just as Jesus did and as he continues to do.

Yes, we must be careful we do not become proud prophets, as Paul was tempted to do.  But, like him, we all have reasons not to be proud and to let the power of God shine through our weaknesses.  Yet, like Paul, we will find our greatest joy in accepting the hardships of the Gospel, giving witness to Jesus, and letting people know he is alive and well and wants to continue his ministry of forgiving sins, turning us back to God, and giving us the fullness of life and love here on earth and forever more.