Those Advent Mass readings, right? Even if I've heard the same thing every year in the past, I'm not hearing it the same way this year.
Today, there's Balaam, the dude who is better known for getting so angry at his donkey that God gives the donkey speech to tell him off. Hired to curse Israel, eh? Well, we'll see about that. God makes it clear that He is the one who gives messages, even to asses like Balaam. I love, though, the eloquent intro he gives to his prophecy of the Messiah:
the utterance of a man whose eye is true,It's like you just want to tell him, ok, enough puffery, get on with it. And yet, it seems that almost in spite of himself, Balaam speaks the truth.
The utterance of one who hears what God says,
and knows what the Most High knows,
Of one who sees what the Almighty sees,
enraptured, and with eyes unveiled:
The Psalm: "Teach me your ways, O Lord." I heard that immediately as the prayer coming from the heart of one being discipled in the prophetic, in what it means to be a prophet. God's ways are prophetic; He is speaking forth. And the key there, as to the entire spiritual life, seems to be humility.
Then that gospel that just made me grin as I heard it. I wrote a post yesterday about St. John the Baptist, and how he speaks to me as a prophetic sign in my own life. And I love how Jesus interacts with these religious leaders. They are concerned that Jesus defend his right to, you know, exist and do Messiah-y things. They have clearly not grasped His divinity; at most they have considered it a theoretical possibility, but they are waiting for it to make sense to them before they are willing to embrace the idea. They live religion on the level of ideology. It is about the idea of a coming Messiah, the idea of religious authority, not faith, not the openness to experience that leads to the embrace of faith.
And Jesus simply will not meet them on that level.
What about John the Baptist? What about that whole experience? Was it from God? Or was it just another human thing. (Good golly, in reference to my post I wrote yesterday, how many zillions of times did I work through those questions?! Does this experience bear the marks of the work of God, or is it a simple human flash-in-the-pan?)
But these religious leaders weren't even really ready to wrestle with the question. They still worried about how the question made them look to other people. If they said it was from God, Jesus would "get" them. If they said it was all a human nothing, popular opinion would "get" them. And at all costs, they would not be "gotten" by anyone. They had to stay far removed from all that. And that's why they lived in their isolationary ideological ivory tower (oooh -- "i" alliteration; be still my poetic heart!)
No answer, Jesus. We'll stay with ideology.
Okees. You choose to stay there. Then I won't answer you, because you don't really want it and my answer will do you no good.
And right there is Jesus' prophetic lesson: this is how you talk about truth. Step one: you have to be all about the person in front of you -- understanding, loving, respecting, challenging, and then letting go.
And then I come across this homily of Pope Francis' today.
Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis said a prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future. True prophets, the Pope said, hold within themselves three different moments: past, present, and future. They keep the promise of God alive, they see the suffering of their people, and they bring us the strength to look ahead.
'Tis certainly the season to think about prophets, but there's something insistent here for me to pay attention to.