04 August 2006

Prophets and Experts

It is often said that experts are "people from outside." In a way, this is true. Often, we have a difficult time listening to those who are close to us: at home, at work, in our family, among our friends, etc. Jesus experienced this phenomenon in today's Gospel. The patrons of the synagogue were astonished at his wisdom and yet they did not manifest faith in his authority. Their reaction, "Is he not the carpenter's son?" demonstrates the timelessness of the adage about experts (and in Jesus' case prophets, too) being welcome only when they are not indigenous to the group.

Most of us have at least one "prophet" in our circle of friends, family, or co-workers. If we are really honest we may acknowledge that our resident "prophet" usually has some accurate observations to make (even if they are unwelcome). And if we are really honest, we will admit that these "accurate observations" usually provoke feelings of discomfort in us.

Not everybody who makes us uncomfortable is a "prophet." We need to discern the reason why we feel uncomfortable in the presence certain people; sometimes it is simply a matter of having more common ground with some folks than with others. Other times, however, it is the case that a resident "prophet" speaks some uncomfortable truths. Prophets aren't perfect; sometimes their observations are spoken uncharitably or at an inopportune time. It can be hard to be responsive amid challenging circumstances. Irrespective of such circumstances, however, let us beg for the grace to be open to the "resident prophets" in our own lives. The Lord can use many different means to get our attention and speak to our hearts. Let us not miss His message even if it is delivered by someone whom we know well.

"I have no doubt there will be aversions and repugnances in your spirit. . . . there are so many occasions to exercise the true virtue of sweetness; for we must do well and in a holy and loving way what we owe to everyone, although it may be against the grain and without relish."
St. Francis de Sales

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