Grace to you!
A young priest was assigned to pastor a wealthy parish in a diverse part of the USA. The parish prides herself for being one of the main financiers of the diocese they belong to and for their ability to execute any project in record time.
Nevertheless, in this parish, power tussle was rampant. The previous pastor had advised the young priest: “Do not rock the boat if you want to succeed. Your parishioners have so much money that they can spoil you with gifts if you play it safe.” An unfortunate advice.
So, the young priest came to the parish, “playing it safe.” In a few weeks his joy vanished into thin air. He felt he was not being the prophet he was called to be.
In fact, there were different interest groups in the parish, as is the case in many parishes. Church celebrations were constantly redesigned to suit one family’s interest or the other. Of course, the priest received many gifts. “He is our man” many of the parishioners said. They took him out for games, travels, hiking, and casinos. But when it can to their real personal spiritual needs, they sought help elsewhere.
Deep within his soul, this priest was not at peace. In spite of having all the money and fame (a wrong way to go), he felt he was not doing his job. He lacked the courage to be a true prophet.
This real case scenario comes to my mind as I contemplate the biblical message from the Book of Jeremiah, chapter one. It is the popular story of the call of an Old Testament Prophet, Jeremiah. I also think about it with regard to the words of Jesus to his disciples in the Gospel of Luke 4:21-30. The Lord warned the disciples to face the reality that the prophet isn’t always welcomed among his people.
Being a prophet, that is God’s mouthpiece, God’s messenger, to proclaim the mind or will of God in society in which we live, isn’t always a fun thing. In reality, it is a bitter-sweet kind of ministry. In our contemporary world, it is even more challenging given that many of us want to be told how good we are. Fewer and fewer people, whether in the family, in the church or the larger society, cherish candid feedback. Yet the work of the prophet is such that it points us to the will of God in any situation. You know that the will of God often isn’t the way we usually love to go.
When parents can’t freely share their honest feedback with an erring child for fear of being judged as judgmental, then we are in for a challenging future. When a pastor can’t preach the truth from the pulpit, then the salt of the earth has ceased to be what it is.
God warned the prophet Jeremiah that his tasks could cause him much pain. The prophet would have strong oppositions from the people. Yet, the prophet is advised to be courageous (Jer 1:17-19). It is part of the job, including its hazards.
Hence, if you want to be a friend of everybody in carrying out your Christian ministry as an ordained minister or a member of the laity, you may want to reconsider your position. Try as you may, you can’t please everybody. The perfect Lord couldn’t please everyone, let alone you. Better to displease some people because you are doing the right thing.
However, I have some recommendations based on the principles suggested in First Corinthian Chapter 13 on how to do so Christ’s way. In 1 Cor 13, St. Paul tells the Corinthian church that the greatest of all gifts, all virtues anyone should aspire for, is love.
If I would borrow from him, to balance the courage of the prophetic spirit with the Christian spirit, love has to inspire every word we speak as prophets. Our actions should also be done in pure love, that is love modelled after Christ. Scripture says, “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).
In our prophetic ministry, let love inspire our words and deeds. Speak the truth always (we have the responsibility to proclaim the truth), but with love. Truth not spoken with love is hateful. Our voice should be the voice of solace in turbulent water. Love first. Then speak.
Praying for the grace of true love. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time: Jer 1:4-5, 17-19; 1 Cor 12:31-13; 13 or 13:4-13; Lk 4:21-30]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.