Sometimes we find prophets in the most unlikely places. Steeped in God, they are the ones who clearly speak their integrity whether in word or action. They see truth as clearly as they can and pit themselves against the falsehood of the status quo. A nameless woman in the gospel was noticed by Jesus as such a person. In this story, Jesus focused on the utter self-abandonment of a poor woman. She was a woman whom we would label as a victim. In her society, she was vulnerable. As a widow, she was a victim of the economic and social injustices of her world. But notice what she did. She gave her all and exposed the whole system of accumulation and acquisition. She became a judgment on the cautious, grasping culture in which she lived and showed the way to a very different world. Jesus, being the embodiment of that alternative world, praised her. He made it clear that outer show is not a substitute for inner character, and that the manner one gives is worth more than the gift. For Jesus, a false, self-centered piety would not do and he was not afraid to make it clear to those in power.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew my spirit.
Am I caught in the web of false values?
Do I accept the manipulative pious hypocrisy I see and hear?
Where can I contribute either in service or by sharing what I have?
In the course of his teaching Jesus said to the crowds,
“Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation.
He sat down opposite the treasury
and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents.
Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them,
“Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more
than all the other contributors to the treasury.
For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had,
her whole livelihood.”
Mark 12:38 -44
It is usually easy to recognize the prophetic voice when it is authentic. It has the freshness and freedom of the Gospel: open, and favoring the disenfranchised. The prophetic voice dares the truth. We can often hear in it a questioning of established power, and an uncovering of human pain and unmet need. It challenges structures that exclude some and benefit others. The prophetic voice urges action and a choice for change.
Sister Pat Farrell
We are all at times unconscious prophets.
The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenements halls and whispered in the sounds of silence.
You should read history and look at ostracism, persecution, martyrdom, and that kind of thing. They always happen to the best men, you know.
Prophets are those who take life as it is and expand it. They refuse to shrink a vision of tomorrow to the boundaries of yesterday.
Joan Chittister OSB
God thundered again and again through the prophets that worship in the context of mistreatment of the poor and disadvantaged is an outrage.
Ronald J. Sider
We can always be sure of one thing—that the messengers of discomfort and sacrifice will be stoned and pelted by those who wish to preserve at all costs their own contentment. This is not a lesson that is confined to the Testaments.
Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those they have slain.
The Brothers Karamazov