Hit the road, pals – Pittsburgh Catholic

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Bridging the Gap

Bishop David A. Zubik

Have you ever met a prophet?  Seriously.  Have you ever met a prophet? 

Before you think about your answer, permit me to clarify a common misunderstanding on what a prophet is.

Oftentimes folks will describe a prophet as someone who can predict the future.  While that might be the secular definition, it clearly is not the biblical one.

Every one of the prophets in the Old Testament and in the New are intended to be “the mouthpiece of God.”  God calls prophets to go make a difference in people’s lives.

And so I go back to my earlier question: Have you ever met a prophet?

Sister Esperentia was my eighth-grade teacher as well as the principal at the former Saint Stanislaus Elementary School in my hometown of Ambridge.  Sister was also the moderator of the altar servers, teaching us both the “how to” and especially the “why” of being servers.  Sister inspired us in no uncertain terms how to serve—out of love for our dear Jesus.

As I look back to eighth grade, it is clear that Sister was a “prophet” in my life.  She was a mouthpiece for God.  She clearly made a difference in my life.

On more than one occasion during my last year in elementary school, Sister Esperentia expressed her firm conviction that I was going to be a priest.  To be honest, while I respected Sister Esperentia, I thought that on that particular issue she was “three bricks shy of a load.”  I was absolutely sure, definitely so, that there was no way I would ever become a priest.  Like most fourteen-year-olds, I thought I knew all the answers to every question, especially about my life.  I knew for certain—there was no way I would be, could be a priest.  No way! 

So—have you ever met a prophet?  My guess is that you have.  As fellow sojourners on the way to God’s kingdom in heaven, all of us have met a prophet.  Someone has been for us “the mouthpiece of God,” someone who made a huge difference in our lives.

  • Perhaps it was the person who introduced you to the woman or man who has become your spouse. 
  • Perhaps it was someone who inspired you to pursue the profession that is now yours.
  • Perhaps it was someone who put you “back on track” whenever you went “off the rails.” 
  • Perhaps it was someone who by their very being was an inspiration to you.

Over the course of the last two years, there has been a remarkable video series entitled “The Chosen” available online.  If you aren’t aware of the series, I encourage you to get on board.  If you have viewed either or both seasons, you know that it is a beautiful and thought-provoking depiction of Jesus choosing those who would be His followers.  In a very human way, the series helps its viewers to not only come to know Jesus better, but also come to know His Mother better; Mary Magdalene better; and the twelve Apostles better.

When you and I crack open the New Testament and read about Jesus in any of the four Gospels, we catch in print what “The Chosen” captures on video—Jesus calling people to be “the mouthpiece of God.”  We experience His call to make a difference in the lives of others.  As His followers come to know Jesus, He sends them out—“Hit the road, pals”—to help even more people come into a relationship with Him.

As I continue to relish opportunities to reflect on the words and the deeds and the power of Jesus’ presence in the Gospels, as I meditate upon the impact of His life on mine and yours, it becomes pretty clear that prophets were not only commissioned in the past.  God continues to call prophets today.  And one of the prophets that Jesus calls is in fact the image that you and I see in our respective mirrors.

Whether in our places of work or in our family rooms; whether backed up in traffic or waiting in line in the local supermarket; you and I are called to be mouthpieces of God, people who make a difference in other people’s lives.  “Hit the road, pals.”

It is pretty clear that life in the 21st century can be even more rugged than the dirt paths that Jesus’ first disciples trod.  The conventional wisdom of our day leads the world’s inhabitants to be a selfish lot, whose modus operandi is what Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI calls “relativism.”  We are tempted to see ourselves as the center of the world, owing nothing to anyone else and guided by no principle beyond our own desires. 

Each day, we encounter people who need us to make a difference in their lives.  And just as Sister Esperentia did that for me and another prophet did that for you—you and I can make a difference in others’ lives.  Lo and behold, Sister Esperentia’s conviction of my future came to pass—Yours Truly became a priest.  I’m convinced you can say the same about a prophet who has made a difference in your life.  Now it’s our turn.

I began this reflection with asking you a question: “Have you ever met a prophet?”

Might I end it by asking you another question: “Are you willing to be a prophet?”

Jesus certainly hopes so!

“Hit the road, pals!”

Photo by Justin Merriman

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