Alfred J Knock was an American writer who lived from 1870-1945. He was born in Scranton and was a prolific author. Some of his noted works are Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943), Our Enemy, the State (1935), and a 1926 biography on Thomas Jefferson, considered one of the best.

Knock also wrote hundreds of essays. One article appeared in 1936 in the Atlantic Monthly. The title was, “Isaiah’s Job.” Isaiah the prophet asks the Lord how he might serve God. God offers him the task of being a prophet of the Lord. In considering the job description, Isaiah sees the apparent fruitlessness of the task. Most prophets are ignored. Many are unpopular and suffer because of what they say. Some are even killed.

”Why bother?” asks the prophet.

The Lord responds that so many prophetic voices today are not from prophets. They’re from pundits. Such words are attractive to the masses.

The prophet’s words from God are like sunlight. Sunlight has the power to heal. It also has the power to transform. It melts wax. It also hardens clay. For many, prophecy is like sunlight on clay. They hear it and only harden their hearts. Prophesy is not for the masses. They won’t hear it. They won’t understand it. They certainly won’t follow it.

Prophesy is for a different group of people.

Ah,” the Lord said, “you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant, so be off now and set about it.”

You might not consider yourself a prophet. We are all weak and needy. Yet, what God accomplishes through us is not because of our strength or wisdom. It is because of our fidelity. Doing “our Catholic thing” is acting as a prophetic witness. It baffles the masses. It sometimes annoys people, family, and friends.

Like Isaiah, we might ask, “Why bother?” Because that prophet witness encourages a small group of men and a few women.

Just like a similar group that hung around a small lake with a friend of theirs….2000 years ago.


[Ideas were from the podcast, “Who Needs Prophesy,” found on “The Catholic Current” by Jesuit Father Robert McTeigue, SJ]

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