It is fair to say that usually the word ‘prophet’ makes us think of one of two types of figures. Either we picture someone like John the Baptist or Jeremiah or Jonah, the kind of fiery, intense reformer whose purpose seems to be to constantly call attention to society’s shortcomings.
Or we picture an Ezekiel or Isaiah, a mystic, someone who can look at the world, even into the future, and read truths unavailable to the rest of us.
But the gift of prophecy is not limited to them. In the second reading, St Paul says that everyone of us has been given the ability to grasp and appreciate and express the plan which the Father has for the development of human society. Simply enough, that is what prophecy is all about.
Scripturally, the word ‘prophet’ means one who speaks the mind of God. All of those who recognise in the life of Christ a standard for their own lives, and accept that standard, become a prophet, become called to represent to the world the values, the attitudes, the understanding that shape a life in accord with the mind of God.
That means that there may be times in the lives of each of us when our call to prophecy, to spread the word of God, will demand of us that we take a stand that is critical of society, that will set us at odds with society …. the stance of a reformer, the stance of a modern-day John the Baptist or Jonah or Jeremiah.
It may be too that at times our call to prophecy will ask us to take a stance of an Isaiah or Ezekiel, the mystics who set aside the familiar and dependable tools of reason and logic so as to free themselves to base their lives on the deeper truths that make up the mind of God.
It is a prophetic act to recognise and to proclaim that all of life is ultimately mysterious, and that the most we can ever grasp is the surface of it, what appears to be.
We are all of us, time and again, called to live comfortably, gratefully, joyfully, in a world that is very often unreasonable, uncontrollable and mysterious.
The point is that for each of us the exercise of our call to prophecy will be as varied as is the need of God’s people to know the truth, and there is no situation in which that need is not a real one. At work, in school, in community, on holiday, there is a way of acting, understanding, relating to others that is in accord with the Christian call, with God’s plan for human activity, and there are ways which are not.
All of us, in each of these situations, are called and sent to act out with all of our ability, the way that is.