Pains of a Prophet

Last May 23, 2015 Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated during the 1980-92 civil war in El Salvador, has been beatified. The ceremony was attended by almost 300,000 people who came from all over Latin America and abroad. He was shot dead by a sniper as he celebrated Mass in a hospital chapel near his cathedral on March 24, 1980 some 35 years ago.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, the Vatican Envoy who presided the beatification rites said: “his preference for the poor was not ideological but evangelical. He pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation.”
In those years of the civil war in El Salvador 80,000 people died and 12,000 disappeared. As Archbishop of his country, he took a stand during El Salvador’s darkest moment. When the US-backed Salvadorean army was using death squads and torture to stop leftist revolutionaries from seizing power, he was not afraid to speak out in his weekly sermons. He was the conscience of the government.
The day before he was shot, he said in his last homily: “the law of God which says thou shall not kill must come before any human order to kill. It is high time you recovered your conscience.” He was calling on the National Guard and the police to stop violence: “I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”
That was the sermon that cost him his life. The day after, while celebrating mass, he was hit through the heart by a single bullet. The words of a prophet, many times, are hard to accept. The easiest way is to silence him by death.
The Gospel today (Mk 6:1-6) presents Jesus as a man of God, a prophet from God. But he is not welcome by his own people. He is rejected! We see a great contrast here: last Sunday we heard miracle done. Today none. Miracles are absent. We realize, faith produces miracles.
But Jesus has a very timely and compelling message for us today: make a stand, be prophets!
Mr. Webster defines a prophet as “one who utters divinely inspired revelation.. effective spokesman for a cause.. one who delivers a message from God.”
To be followers of Jesus, we need to make a stand. We need to become prophets. This entails 3 things:
1.    We will be ignored. Nobody listens. We will find close ears, unwelcoming hearts. The 1st Reading speaks of “obstinate people.”  The real challenge is to speak not with words but by our example, our witness, our lives. Our personal witness is hard to ignore especially if it is a joyful witness done out of great love.
To be a prophet means we are heralds of the “good news.” Our news is liberating, life-giving. It is the source of peace, joy and  hope.
2.    We will experience hardship. We will have sufferings, pains and persecutions. In the 2nd Reading, St. Paul experienced all these: insults, hardships, persecutions, constraints. He beg the Lord: “Please Lord, take them away! Remove them! But God surprisingly said: “No. My grace is enough for you!” In other words: Kaya mo yan! Ayawg talaw. Padayon sa pagpakigbisog!
That is exactly what God is telling you now: don’t be afraid. Move forward. My grace is enough for you!
St. John Bosco used to say: “you don’t have to look for special penances or mortification. Just bear the sufferings and annoyances of life with christian resignation.”
3.    But we need to persist. Christ will sustain us. Our faith will lift us up. Mysteriously, in our weakness, God will make us strong. The beautiful song “When we Believe” gives us this encouragement:
“There can be miracles / When you believe
Though hope is  frail / its hard to kill.”
Somebody said: “the only way to transform the world is personal witness. One conscience at a time.” But the cost may be your life.

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