Intentionality and the Prophetic Voice. Homily for Nativity of John the Baptist
Fundamentally, a “prophet” is someone who performs two tasks:
- They speak truth to power.
- They establish a bridge from the status quo to a new dimension
When truth speaks to power, it’s not so that the power can receive the information and then move on with the status quo. The prophetic voice is intended to force the issue; to move from the current status quo to a new dimension. The method that the prophet uses usually is simple and not very dramatic. What is dramatic – and the key – is intentionality. It is the stubborn, consistent, grinding commitment that gives the simplest of plans its efficacy.
There are 2 types of power. First there is external power. External power includes political power, military power, religious or ecclesiastical power and economic or industrial power. We see prophetic voices commonly speaking to this power in the news. We see the US Bishops speaking to political power in Washington, D.C. about the current immigration policy. We saw Pope John Paul II speaking to military power when he entreated President Bush not to invade Iraq. We saw Mother Teresa speak to medical/scientific/political power of the Clintons in advocating for life during her visit to the United States.
Internal power is what we wrestle with in our personal lives. This includes physical/emotional power, spiritual/religious power, and personal historical/familial power. Internal power is important. It might be more important than external power. You will not have the capacity and courage to speak to the external powers unless you have addressed the internal powers and demons in your life first. How does one do this? What happened to Zachariah provides us with a 4-part guide:
- Quiet. People say that they pray. Intentional prayer requires a daily commitment to spend a specified amount of time, at a particular time of the day, in silent interior conversation with God. Truth be told, in Zachariah’s case, this was foisted upon him. Nevertheless, he had time to spend with God in quietly contemplation. He was able to consider what had happened, who he was and what was expected of him, what he had said and done and what he must do in the future.
- The Physical presence of Christ. This is about the reception of the sacraments. People go to church every week. Most go infrequently or not at all. Intentionally seeking the physical presence of Christ means that we commit to physically be there at church.
- We physically “Taste and see” (Psalm 34:8) the Lord in the Eucharist. It requires nourishing ourselves weekly on the sacrament of the Eucharist. Intentionality also includes “making a personal mass intention.” We mentally think about what issues we’re struggling with. We consider where the Lord has been good to us (Psalm 13:6) so we can offer thanksgiving. We place our fears and concerns and troubles on the gifts that are brought up during the Offertory Procession so that they can be “killed” on the altar. In this way, the darkness is “sacrificed” which allows the grace of Christ’s cross to transform them (or “redeem” them) into something good.
- Repentance. It is implied that Zachariah was sorry for his transgressions and asked for the Lord’s forgiveness. People commonly do not do the same. Few visit the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. Many have not taken advantage of the sacrament in years. Intentional repentance involves a regular, scheduled encounter with Christ in His sacrament. Four times a year (summer, winter, spring, fall) is a good general rule. Monthly confession is better. Go to Confession with your spouse. Bring your children with you as well. This offers the entire “domestic church” the opportunity to strengthen that community as we as cleansing ourselves of our sins.
- Faith. This involves faith in someONE, not someTHING. Certainly, this involves a relationship with Christ, but do we have intentional faith? Do we have a “Pentecost Partner” as well? Do we have someone with whom we intentionally and regularly meet? Do we have a wise and prayerful person in our lives, to whom we make ourselves accountable? Is there someone who can examine our thoughts and behaviors, and offer Godly advice, support, encouragement and counsel?
When we enter into this kind of intentionality, we commonly receive other graces as well. Prophetic times are messy, mysterious, scary, unpredictable. We can feel alone and vulnerable. Typically, God will provide people in our lives for these moments. The right person, at the right time, with the right solution or word, at the right place will be provided to help bridge the gap and encourage us on our journey. In addition, “signs” will come. I heard one religious sister once say that “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Strange, wonderful coincidences occur in the lives of intentional disciples. They are not only things to make us happy. They will also be invitations to go deeper in our faith.
Theresa The Little Flower referred to Christ as the bridge over which we walk to get from our side of darkness and sin to his side of light and grace. There’s a reason he refers to himself as “the way.” God always puts more faith in us than we do in him or even ourselves. He just needs us to take the next, best, step.
Audio version of the homily is here: