Friday, January 17, 2014


By Deacon Jerry Franzen  January 19, 2014    Cathedral

Isaiah 49: 3, 5–6       1 Corinth. 1: 1-3      John 1: 29-34


*Pick up any paper— watch the morning news—
listen to talk radio—
Notice how the word, “prophet,” is used.
A lucky investor is hailed as the
“The New Prophet of Wall Street.”   
A politician with a slick PR person is christened,
“A Prophet for Troubled Times.”
For that matter, you can browse the latest fashion journals,
and you might find that the latest must have designer
has been crowned, “The Prophet of Style.”
We are presented with   
cultural prophets, environmental prophets,
technological prophets, new age prophets,
and prophets of doom.   
There are talking heads,
spin doctors, market watchers,    and political analysts--
all of whom, on occasion, become our seers and prophets—
our modern sources of revelation.      

We use the term, “prophet.” so casually
that we seem to be immune
to the true power of that word.
When we encounter God’s prophets  
in the world of faith and scripture,
the images that come to mind
are often too narrow and too shallow.
The images are often so shaped by our secular view
that they do not reveal
the true nature of God’s prophets.


In our Catholic tradition, a prophet is not
a conjurer with a crystal ball or with tarot cards.  
A prophet does not offer up a set of parlor tricks
like mind reading.
A prophet doesn’t attempt to predict the future
by plucking single verses of scripture out of context
to make a point,
or promise to reveal The Truth
only to those ministry partners
whose fat wallets can be made thinner.  

Rather, a prophet is someone who offers people
a new way of seeing—
someone who views the human condition  
through the lens of God.
A prophet is someone who calls us
to a deeper conversion, to a radical redemption,
to unexpected hope. 
A prophet is one whose message
is usually difficult and challenging—
a message that reminds us that
the way things are today
are not the way things have to be.
A prophet is someone who sees our brokenness
and knows it can be made whole,
someone who mourns our sin
and knows how deeply it separates us from God.

Today’s message from Isaiah to the nation of Israel
in captivity in Babylon
was that he had been made God’s servant
in order to bring them back to God
and that they were also to live as God’s servants.
That would be their way
to show God’s glory,
to be the light for all nations,
so that God’s salvation may reach
to the ends of the world.

I once asked a group of young grade school children,   grades 1-4,
what a prophet was and one young boy said,
“Someone who tells you how you should live.”
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.
John was "filled with the Holy Spirit
even from his mother's womb".

John the Baptist was a prophet.
John was a voice, a directional signal
who came to tell people how to live in preparation.
They were to prepare the way
for one greater than he.  
John’s message was to prepare the Jewish people
for the greatest message of all,
the greatest message that God has ever sent to us.
John’s message was to bear witness to the Light
and to testify to the incarnate Son of God,
and to the mission of Jesus, whose name means
“the one who saves his people.’    

“Behold, the Lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!”

John was always pointing to Jesus, even in his death.
Herod was afraid of John; he felt threatened by him.
He was, therfore, agreeable to having him killed
when Salome made her demand.
But, after John had been killed,
Herod’s problems were not resolved.
He then had a more formidable person in Jesus to deal with.
John was always pointing to Jesus.

Now, you and I might never spend time in the desert,
wear a hair shirt,
or live on locusts and honey as John did.
We might not be called to lay down our lives
or to become a great saint.    
But, like John and Isaiah,
we can witness to what we know and what we see.
Like John and Isaiah,
we can lift up our voices and testify to the light. 

Every time we rejoice in a baptism
or receive absolution in penance-
every time we hear the Word proclaimed,
every time we approach the altar to receive the Body of Christ,
we testify to the Light which came down from heaven.
We should experience the same sense of awe—
that same profound sense of witness that John experienced—
We, too, should be thinking, if not saying,

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

It can be so easy to take salvation for granted—
to become immune to the wonder of it all—
to accept as tame and routine
our anything-but-routine opportunities
to encounter the living God.

What we do here today is earth shattering, mind boggling.
It is filled with the greatest love that we have ever known:
“This is the lamb of God,
who takes away the sin of the world!”
As one author noted,
when we are here at Mass
or receiving any of the other sacraments,
we are like**children playing with explosives,
meaning that powerful and unexpected things will happen.
Sin will be washed away in the flood of God’s love.
Maybe the ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares.
It’s a love that can move the mountains of resistance
we may harbor.
Maybe we should install seat belts in the pews.
It’s as though we should all be wearing crash helmets. **
Powerful and unexpected things will happen.

The Prophet John reminds us
that there is another way of seeing—
that we are being called to a deeper conversion,
to a radical redemption,
to an unexpected hope. 
His message reminds us that 
the way things are today
is not the way things have to be.
We need not be slaves to sin.
John’s journey points to the one who sees our brokenness
and offers to make us whole -
the one who knows our sin,
and reconciles us to God -
The one who walks with captives,
and loves us enough to set us free. 

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

* Material taken form a homily by Dr. Susan McGurgan
Atenaeum of Ohio web site for 2nd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A 2008

** paraphrased from Annie Dillard, “Teaching a Stone to Talk,”  Harper & Row 1982