USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.
Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel
before the Son of Man comes.”
Good News Reflection: Are you God’s prophet?
God’s prophets are not fortune-tellers; they are prayerful people who boldly speak the truth of God. In today’s first reading, we see this in action as Hosea prophesies about the dangers of straying from God and the rewards of returning to God.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus coaches his disciples on how to be prophets: “You yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you.”
We are Christ’s modern-day disciples and therefore his modern-day prophets, but only if we let the Holy Spirit do the talking.
We are first of all prophets in our homes. This is often the most difficult place to speak for God (which is why Jesus said, “Brother will hand over brother to death ….”), because we sound like hypocrites. Our families know our imperfections and sinfulness all too well. Making matters worse, sometimes we’ve made the error of speaking from a self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude. Usually, the only effective way to prophesy here is through our persistent actions and behaviors and attitudes of love.
Jesus said that whoever endures the challenges faced by true prophets, all the way till the end, will be saved, i.e., we unite ourselves to Jesus all the way into heaven.
When we stop being true prophets, we’re rejecting Jesus and the truths that he taught. We represent evil instead of salvation. Sometimes we do this by compromising with the sinful ways of the world. Sometimes we keep our mouths shut when the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts with an urge to speak.
We must hold out till the end: Hold onto the truth that God has revealed to you, dare to stand up for it, and teach it by your examples.
We speak volumes by our examples. People can reject our words, but they cannot stop the revelation of truth in our actions. Those who get defensive when we speak the truth are watching to see how the truth affects our lives. Although they reject what we tell them, they unwittingly accept the truth when we give it to them in deeds and behaviors. This is what it means to “be as shrewd as serpents and as simple (innocent) as doves.”
A self-righteous prophet says to others: “You must listen to me.” An effective prophet says to himself (or herself): “I don’t know if I’ll be successful, but even if the truth gets rejected, God’s word never returns to him void. I’ll back up my words by the way I live my life; the rest is up to God.”
We need to examine our motives and get in touch with our own sinfulness to remind ourselves that we are not superior to the sinners we’d like to change. We need to become conscious of the precious goodness that’s hidden within them. Then, we need to seek loving ways to deliver the message. The Holy Spirit will guide us. Shhhh …. listen for the Spirit’s voice.
Talk to me, Lord, in the silence of my heart. Tell me what You want from me, and may Your Holy Spirit grant me the strength I need to proclaim Your Word wherever You want. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica