Lesson: Hearing The Prophet’s call
The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
A Parable Retold adapted from Matthew Fox’s Creation Spirituality
Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of Earth, pages 143-45
“In the Gospel of Luke we read about a rich man and a poor man named Lazurus. I propose the following updated version of that parable:
There was a rich nation whose people used to dress in whatever clothes they wanted every day, and buy whatever cars they wanted which emitted untold amounts of carbon dioxide.
These people ate beef at fast food restaurants whenever they wanted; they created a whole new industry around beef eating even when it was grown by tearing down rain forests where the poor lived, even though it was explained to them how their children depend on these very rain forests so far away for their health.
Now at the rich country’s border there lay many poor countries to the south; they were called “The Third World.”
They were covered with the sores of poverty, unemployment, lack of food and medical care, and owed many debts to the rich nation. Much of their land and forests had been stripped bare by the rich nation’s oil and lumber, fruit and meat industries, who supported dictators and their military guards. The sores of the “Third World” included 5 hundred million persons starving; 1 billion persons living in abject poverty; 1 billion, 5 hundred thousand persons with no access to basic health care; 1/2 a billion, 5 hundred million with no work and a per capita income of $150 dollars a year; 814 billion illiterate persons; 2 billion people with no dependable water; and no topsoil.
These sores were present daily for the rich nations to behold, but they turned their backs and pretended that such suffering was not “newsworthy.” Instead, they built a culture of denial and left the dogs to lick the wounds of the poor.
For years the “Third World” longed to fill itself with the scraps that fell from the rich nation’s table. But most of the assistance that the “Third World” received from the “First World” was in the form of military weapons and money to support the dictators and their armies because those armies were needed to keep the poor people from rebelling. The rich nation would train the poor armies in methods of effective torture. The rich nations then could continue to receive the fruit, the coffee, the sugar, and the cocoa and eventually all the cocaine and the other drugs that fed the rich nation’s insatiable needs.
And the poor nations died and were carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich nation also died and was buried and sent to fires of Hades. In its torment in Hades the rich nation looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with the “Third World” beginning to rise from the dead straight out of Abraham’s bosom. So it cried out, ” Father Abraham, pity us and send the “Third World” to dip the tip of its finger in water and cool our tongue, for we are in agony in these flames.”
” My child,” said Father Abraham, “remember that during your life good things came your way, whereas you dealt the bad things to the “Third World. Therefore there is a great chasm that lies between us, and it is a gulf that is fixed to stop anyone who tries to cross over it.”
So the First World begged that Abraham send the Third World to the other rich nations of First World and give them a warning so that they do not wind up here in eternal torment.
” They have had Moses, and the prophets, let them listen to them!”…
Then Abraham said to the rich nation, ” If they will not listen to Moses, or to the prophets or to Jesus, they would not be convinced even if someone would rise and return from the dead.”
There are two main streams of thought, devotion and action in our Western spiritual tradition. They are the mystical or prayerful and then there is the prophetic or the ethical.
The first concerns itself with sanctification, the second with justice. Thomas Merton once described these two approaches to the Holy in these words: [“Prayer is seeking a union with God through the path of personal transformation; Justice is seeking the community of God through the path of social transformation.]”
Unity and its teachings seem to emphasize the mystical and does a wonderful job with the raising of individual consciousness to accept God’s blessings. It seems to be closely related to the Via Positiva as its home base. Today, I will introduce you to the other side of being a spiritual and responsible person, becoming the prophet. That is simply defined as being willing to become a living testament to the need for change, and a vital witness for justice and truth in your world, which ties in directly with the Via Transformativa.
In general, the prophets are the part of our religious heritage that we find to be the most troublesome. They are risk takers, troublemakers, radicals and conspirators against the status quo. Their targets are complacency, security, apathy and ego driven disobedience. One of the main purposes of prophets is to remind us that we are all in this world together- we are so interconnected as to our fate and our future that we can say that there is no personal salvation- there is only all of us or none of us.
We are reminded by them that The Kingdom or Queendom of God is the place for those who love, and for those who serve.
The prophets emphasize that we are indeed our brother’s and sister’s keepers, and we are also stewards of the earth, its gifts and resources. Prophets remind us that we are everybody else’s caregivers, lovers, and healers, and that is as it should be-we are all one, all part of the family of God.
The way of the prophet is not always a gentle way, but it is always sincere and deeply committed to what is just and true. The prophet stands defiantly-He or she makes the commitment to act fiercely as a warrior of the heart- to be uncooperative with oppression and evil while being steadfastly compassionate toward humanity and all of life.
Being a prophet, or more accurately feeling called and being wrenched out of your resistance to act courageously is not a gift that most people want or seek. It contains very little personal glory, but much heartfelt satisfaction. Usually there is a large price to pay when one chooses God, and the willingness to stand up for what one believes. Most often, the mark of a true prophet is found in the one who doesn’t or who won’t volunteer, who is not eager, but reluctant. For who in their right mind wants to put themselves out there in front of family, friends, the media, and become an easy target for ridicule and criticism?
And yet…something happens to these blessed ones, something inside them that seems to look like madness, and to the ordinary people who look at their strange demands to follow God more closely, it does seem impractical, even insane! From somewhere deep within them, they hear a call, something awakens them and urges them to accept a divine mission. They are compelled to write, speak and lead for righteousness sake- for the sake of humanity, for the need to establish justice on earth and among nations, neighbors, and in our own households.
A prophet is constantly on guard and warns us of following or falling into any of the traps of conformity and comfort, routine and apathy. They advise us strongly and rally us and our convictions to prevent defamation, abuse, injustice and conflict. On a personal and on a social level, they warn us against indulging in any passions or preoccupations, idols or addictions-anything that can act as a substitute or counterfeit spirituality. They implore us to stop any behavior that can take you away from identifying yourself as a connected, ethical, and responsible spiritual being.
A prophet asks each of us to make choices- choices as if the reality, power, love and grace of God really mattered to you, and to how your world needs to change to respond to those blessings. A prophet or a prophetess is a man or a woman whose mission is to be very protective of their community, and the Council of All Beings. They are willing to be a very effective, front line workers for justice, equality and dignity for all. They see themselves as protecting the value of maintaining a spiritual identity and a heartfelt relationship to all that is sacred and holy in life.
Are you a prophet, in waiting??? Let’s see…
The classical description we get from the Jewish prophets goes like this: First, there is a call to one’s conscience- a compelling, and welling up cry to come out and serve your God in the highest way you know how, or in a way that God will reveal to you.
Second, there is an assurance that you need not be afraid, you are becoming a servant of a holy purpose, a channel or an instrument, a current of God’s desire to uplift and reform what has been down trodden, abused, and enslaved.
Then you are told what the task ahead is, you might balk, and then finally see that the world has need of you and you then risk and declare in God’s name what needs to be said and done.
Hear then the prophet’s call … to you… To each of us, learn of its wisdom, look at your life, and prepare to heed its message and mission for you and the world you want to see…
You! You out there sitting in that pew! Come Out! Rise Up!
Be the person of God you were meant to be!
Don’t be afraid…I will never give you a task or a responsibility that I feel is too big for you, and besides… you believe that with God, you can do anything Don’t you?
And that one on the side of God is a majority!
I have a job for you…a simple task really…but it is also my special gift to you by which you can bless all your brothers and sisters, all your relations on this planet…
I want you to become my voice, my heart, my hands…
Now I warn you-expect to be misunderstood; you might be maligned, ridiculed and abused-but Hey, it goes with the territory-human ego and human culture don’t like to be corrected, and both are very resistant to change! Read the Beatitudes again, especially the last part!
Besides, there a certain kind of enjoyable freedom when people think your crazy-you can get away with a lot while still teaching many things!
Speak earnestly and honestly…Speak from your heart… Offer the people a choice and a hope-ask them to change for the sake of their lives, for our children’s sake, for the planet, so Earth can have a chance to heal…
Meet any resistance you find with courage- teach them the promise of justice, Give them the belief in equality, ask them to work for dignity, and not to neglect the suffering they see.
Tell them to stop; stop cooperating with evil, stop being passive and letting sick and evil people in their lives have their way. Stop being passive, safe, or secure in your disfunctions. Stop being afraid of judgments, Stop your soul robbing addictions, and seek out a place for God as alive, strong, loving and free within you.
Know, down to the depths of your being,that you are precious to God and that God has need of you- O reluctant prophet that you are- and that the time for you to answer the Divine call and for making peace and justice come into reality is here…and NOW.