Pasternak once wrote: “In every generation, there has to be a fool who will speak the truth as he sees it.” He could very have been describing what a prophet is. He could have written that with John the Baptist in mind, or even the Fool on the Hill Himself – the Christ.
Truth is often uncomfortable and inconvenient. John condemned Herod for marrying and living with his own brother’s wife. For that, he got beheaded. Christ condemned the hypocrisy and the deceit of the religious leaders of His time. For that, he was crucified. And yet, every generation indeed needs prophets who will speak out the truth. There is so much greed for material possessions and unbridled profits in today’s world. This greed that oppresses others need to be called out and condemned. Greed is also behind he unconscionable exploitation and abuse of the earth’s resources. This greed that thrashes our planet and creates massive pollution and climate changes need to be called out and condemned. Lust for power drives many to go to war and violence. This greed that leads to death and destruction must also be called out and condemned. Lust for inordinate and illicit pleasures drives many to exploit and abuse others, specially the weak, the women and the children. This sexual exploitation and human trafficking must be called out and condemned.
The work of a prophet is not only the proclamation of truth and the condemnation of lies and abuses. It is also the proclamation of the goodness and beauty that there is in life. It is also about “the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, the lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having the good news brought to them”.
There is beauty and grace whenever a child is born no matter how humble the circumstances, like a manger. There is love and strength whenever a man and a woman pledge to be together till death do them part, instead of flitting from one casual relationship to another. There is love and beauty whenever someone shares what he has with others who have less or are in need, even if this would mean denying his own comfort and pleasure. There is beauty and goodness whenever someone lives with less in order to help heal the earth by using less of her resources.
I had once dreamt of doing a prophet’s work, inspired by the thought of speaking and proclaiming what is true, good and beautiful. Along the way, I have allowed myself to be co-opted by the system. I was like a reed being swayed by the seductive winds of riches and possessions. I fancied myself wearing fine clothing and living in royal surroundings. These days, my thoughts often go along the lines of: If I had only a fraction of what I have, could I still live and see the goodness around me? My answer is Yes and I need to find the strength to do so. If I were to give away what I have spent most of my life collecting and putting together, would I still say in truth that I have everything I need in life? My answer should be Yes and I need to have courage to do so. Can I look at the my surroundings, see what is dirty and ugly, and then do my share in cleaning and healing of the environment? My answer should be Yes and I need greater sensitivity to do so.
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John,
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?”