It has been said that the prophet’s call is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Of course, one group will be overwhelmingly happy and the other - not so much.
It was understandable that Jeremiah didn’t want to be a prophet. He knew it was a difficult vocation. So when he called, he claimed that he was too young. God answered that he was called to be a prophet even in the womb. Can’t get any younger than that! Several times he complained to God about his lot, even to wishing he had never been born, calling down a curse on the man who announced to his father that he had a son. Apparently he abandoned his calling for a time but God was insistent. He also had to watch as one of the kings read his words and then burn them page by page, the ultimate insult. He was thrown into a cistern and left to die but was eventually rescued. He foretold the Exile and then encouraged the people in exile to settle down and have families because he would be a long time before they would return to Judah. Finally when Babylon was intent upon destroying Jerusalem, the people forced Jeremiah to flee with them to Egypt whereupon, as rumor has it, they killed him.
Another call of the prophet is always speak the truth especially to the powerful regardless of the consequences.
This past Thursday the Church celebrated the feast day of our patron St. John Fisher and also of St. Thomas More. We should be familiar with their stories. John Fisher was the bishop of Rochester, England, who got in trouble with King Henry VIII by telling the king his marriage to Catherine was valid and by upholding Roman supremacy, meaning the Papacy, when Henry wanted to be declared the head of the Church of England. As a result he was thrown into prison. Pope Paul III furthered angered the king by naming John a Cardinal while he was in the Tower of London. He was beheaded on June 22, 1535. Thomas More was the Chancellor of England under Henry VIII. When he refused to sign the Act of Supremacy which made the king the head of the Church of England and also didn’t recognize his divorce from Catherine, he was stripped of his post, goods and land and jailed in the Tower of London. Two weeks to the day after John’s death, on July 6th, he too was beheaded.
With that as a background, who among us wants to be a prophet? Well, guess what? We all were anointed with chrism to be prophets at our Baptism. None of us is likely to be killed for speaking the truth, but that is our calling. We are to read the signs of the times and allow God to speak through us by both our words and actions to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
Take to heart the words Jesus speaks to his disciples in today’s Gospel. Fear no one. Be not afraid. Be brave and bear witness to the faith in which we all believe and into which we were baptized.
12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, A17