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Bible Reflections View Comments

Our Encounters With the Divine
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 9, 2012
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Prophets don’t come into our lives every day, and they don’t always make the sort of impression that the biblical prophets must have made. But if we begin to understand how they experienced God, we might begin to see that even we ourselves have moments of prophetic insight.

Prophets are gifted with an intense personal awareness of God’s love for his people. Their call both inspires and compels them to preach this word to those who will listen—and to those who close their ears. From the time a prophet hears the Word of God, the burning desire is to find the words that will express this eternal message to the people of one time and place.

The Word of God was spoken to John, son of Zechariah, in the desert. He prepared himself not through the temple observances of his father the priest but through desert fasts and prayers. He came out of the desert preaching reform and conversion, telling all that the kingdom of God was at hand. Though his message might have seemed strange and radical to the people who heard him, it was much the same as the message preached by the great Hebrew prophets.

One of these prophets, Baruch, tried to stir the people out of their spiritual lethargy during their long exile in Babylon. He wanted them to live beyond their mourning, their passive longing for the old ways, the old days, their return to their homeland. He told them the Lord was near, the Lord was among them, the Lord would save them. Baruch encouraged the people on the strength of the covenant promise, the promise that had formed them and held them together as a people.

John the Baptist, of whom Jesus spoke of as the greatest of the prophets, desired nothing more than to tell people of the love of God. The call to be a prophet makes demands, asking one to risk everything for the Word. Through his long days and nights in the desert, John must have known the experience of being alone with only the whisper of God’s Word in his heart.

When John found his message, he clung to it: “Prepare the way of the Lord. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe the good news.” That message still rings true today. We know that in our world, in our families, in our own lives, the Good News of God’s love often gets lost. We need to find ways to return to that word again and again. We need to find ways to share it with our loved ones. We need to let people know love is stronger than fear. We need to hold fast to our belief that God cares for our world, all appearances to the contrary.

We might ask what mighty prophets like Baruch and John the Baptist have to do with our lives today. We find the answer in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. His unabashed love for his community and his joy in the way they have responded to God’s Word comes through in every word. We need to be reminded to value the things that really matter—love, faith, justice, compassion. Paul’s prayer for his community becomes ours today: “My prayer is that your love may more and more abound, both in understanding and wealth of experience.”

The Lord is in our midst. We are called to share our stories of our encounters with the divine in our daily lives. We might think we’re voices crying in the wilderness. We might be afraid people will call us foolish. But in our day, as in John’s, the kingdom of heaven is indeed at hand.


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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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