Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus’ disciples praising Him and everyone speaking highly of Him but very quickly, their fickleness leads them to begin to question His authority because the words He speaks are now calling them to task. The crowds loved it when Jesus spoke the truth, so long as the truth wasn’t aimed at them. Jesus’ response is merely “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” Luke tells us that this filled them with fury and they rose up and drove him out of town.
This Gospel reminds of why Holy Mother Church, in her wisdom, doesn’t normally assign priests and deacons to the parishes from which they came because people knowing them all their lives are less likely to hear the message they proclaim because perhaps they knew their own faults and failings from when they were younger. Truly, no prophet is accepted in his native place, but the message goes beyond applying to the clergy, it applies to all of us.
Each one of us, because of our baptism, shares in the three-fold ministry of Christ – namely priest, prophet, and king. In the rite of baptism, after water was poured upon our heads, we were then anointed with Sacred Chrism and the minister prayed over us “As Christ was anointed, Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing in everlasting life.”
What does it mean for us to be anointed as a prophet? The mission of the prophet is to be a living icon who bears witness to the truth of Almighty God. G.K. Chesterton said that in an upside-down world such as ours, the prophet is the one who stands on his head so that he might see things aright. Prophets are sent out into the world by God to be beacons of light, bearing witness to the truth – to be steadfast in spreading the Gospel and to not be merely satisfied by mediocrity for it was Jesus Christ himself who told us that it is only the Truth that will set us free.
If we are really living our prophetic role, if we are insistent on being witnesses to the Truth then it should come as no surprise to us that we will be the object of fury of many, often by those who claim to love us the most. When we exercise our prophetic duty and speak the Truth, which is true love, then by necessity we will be scorned by friends and family just as Jesus was by those who claimed to be his friends. Who among us can expect to be treated better than the Master?
The call of Christ in today’s Gospel isn’t to keep silent when we are persecuted. Christ didn’t stop preaching the truth even when it hit the nerves of those whom just minutes before were praising His greatness – rather, the call is to bear the wrongs patiently, even being willing to be driven out by those who hate us for speaking the truth. The words our Blessed Lord gives us today are encouragement – encouragement to know that when we speak the Truth and witness to Christ we will be hated.
When we become heralds of Christ there are many times when people will love us and the things we say and the danger there is allowing acclamation by others to cause our pride to swell up and to begin thinking highly of ourselves. The very same people who love us for speaking courageously to others will be those who hate us when we speak the very same truth that now applies to them. We must be willing, as Christ was, to walk away from others either when they reject us or it is demanded of us.
Jesus Christ himself said “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy to be my disciple.” For this reason, in our relationships with others we must be willing to speak the Truth, in love – love with St. Paul notes in our second reading does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.”
To truly love another is to go beyond feelings, to forego emotion and to do what is best for a person, even if that means they will hate us. What parent would not immediately slap the hand of a child who went to touch a hot burner on a stove or punish their child if they were caught stealing? Children do not understand that parents do the actions they do because they love their children, rather they perceive the actions of their parents as hate or animosity.
We somehow begin to believe that as we become adults that we no longer need correcting, that we’re fully actualized human beings. The truth of the matter is that none of us is perfect and all of us needs a little correcting here or there on our path to everlasting life – we must all be open to correction, especially those whom we are closest to. When we are corrected, we must not be like children who assume the intentions of the one correcting us are bad, but rather (as the Catechism admonishes us) we must try to interpret their actions in the best possible light. Yes we are all indeed prophets but even the prophets were open to the fullness of the truth.
The challenge presented to us is twofold – Firstly, Are we willing to exercise our baptismal call and be prophets for the Lord – willing even to speak the Truth to father and mother, son and daughter even if that means they no longer want to be a part of our lives? This saying is hard but this is exactly what Christ is calling us to today – to love Him more than we love any other human being that we’re willing to forsake human relationships in deference to the Truth if that becomes necessary.
Secondly, are we willing to accept the correction of others – are we willing to accept that correction is done out of love and not out of spite? Are we like Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel who love when Father or Deacon or friend or neighbor is courageous and speaks the truth to others, so long as the truth doesn’t hit home in our hearts and then if it does detest and scorn them? Are we willing to accept the Truth that prunes us or are we complacent in our comfortableness? Are we willing to submit ourselves in humility so that we can grow greater in stature in the Kingdom of God. This is the call of Jesus Christ today. If any of us are unwilling to do any of these things, then none of us is worthy to be called a disciple of Jesus Christ. May the Holy Spirit’s love grow in us so that we are always able to preach the Truth in love and also be willing to accept the truth in love. Amen.