LISTEN TO THE SENTINEL

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God communicated to humankind, especially to his chosen people, through prophets.  Noah and Abraham are  first in the list of those who received divine  revelations.   Moses was one  to whom  God  talked like   a friend.  The place he occupies among  prophets  is summed up in the following words; ‘Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to  face’ (Deut 34:10)

The line of  prophets saw  the likes of Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and  ended with John the Baptist. With the  birth of Jesus, prophecies  started to fulfill and the   fullness of  divine revelation was  given through the  Son of God.

It doesn’t mean that  the chain of  prophets is broken forever. But there is a  marked difference in that  the  prophets of the New Testament era drew their prophetic power from the  written Word.  There are prophets today also. They minister among us. Like John the Baptist they call us to  repentance. Like Jeremiah, They warn us about the  impending  chastisement. Like Daniel, they  teach us to stay with God  during adversities and even in exile. Like Isaiah they remind us of God’s wrath lest we may stray again.

Elijah calls out from the wilderness to  bring back  God’s people back to  Him. Elisha follows  with  miracles and  wondrous signs. Samuel shows us the way to the  Anointed One.  Hosea never  gets tired of telling about   the infidelity of the chosen people and  Joel reminds us that infidelity brings  punishment. Malachi  heralds the  dawn of   Lord’s day.

But the sad part is that  the number of those who listened to their prophecies were few. A Prophet is a sentinel. He is appointed to guard the people and to warn them  when the  enemy approaches. Warning the  people  about the  coming sword is, Like Ezekiel, the primary duty of a prophet. ‘So you mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I  say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not  speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways; the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked  to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life’ (Eze. 33:7-9).

A Prophet’s mandate is simple as is the warning from God that  the prophet  will be accountable for not carrying out  the  mission assigned to him.  This is why prophets proclaimed the  words of God to a  rebellious nation often risking their own life.  Once a prophet  gets an  inspiration to speak out, he cannot contain that  divine urge. Jeremiah writes about this dilemma. ‘My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is  beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the  sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war’ (Jer 4:19).  A prophet cannot remain  silent!

Jeremiah writes again; ‘My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick’ (Jer  8:18). Proclaiming the words of  God  was  an ordeal to  Jeremiah. He laments; ‘For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long’ (Jer 20:8). For a moment, he  thinks about ignoring his call to prophecy, but  it becomes more and more impossible for him to ignore  it. ‘ If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot’ (Jer 20:9).

It is about  prophets. But we are  on the side. We are called to  listen to the words of  prophets. So when we hear something  from a prophet,  pray for the discernment to understand its meaning. Pray for the grace to  appreciate the words of God  communicated through them.  But  first of all, we should  accept them as prophets.  Had the Israelites accepted Jeremiah as a true prophet, they would have listened to his words. If they were blessed with the   discernment to know  that they were going  towards a period of  suffering and exile,  they could have made  amends to their life.  Unfortunately the chosen people failed to  appreciate the words of Jeremiah as  coming from God; and they paid for it  dearly.

Jeremiah is gone and exile is over. But we are  here to  listen to the voice of  the prophets  of our times who call out in the wilderness of  a corrupt and contaminated world to repent and return to  Jesus Christ, our only Savior. The pertinent question is, whether we   really distinguish the  voice of true prophets amid the cacophony of  ever increasing  false teachings that dominates  the world today.

Let us pray for the  grace to accept a prophet as a prophet, because  our Lord  has promised that ‘ whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of  a prophet will receive a  prophet’s reward’ (Mt 10:41). A prophet’s share is  a cup full of suffering. They accept it  for the benefit  of us mortals so that we are warned in advance. 

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