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Listening to the Prophets

In today’s gospel reading (Mt 17:9-13), Jesus once again mentions John the Baptist. He compares John to Elijah the prophet and reminds His disciples that many people chose to ignore John’s message. Since prophets act as messengers for God, ignoring them is equivalent to ignoring God. Still, disregarding the words of the prophets was a common practice throughout the ages.

A few days ago, we discussed the concept of, “What would John the Baptist do?” In that discussion, I challenged us all to follow the example of John the Baptist, even when we met opposition. Today, I’d like to turn things around and pose the question, “How do we react when we encounter a modern day John the Baptist?” …A person who, like Elijah or John the Baptist, brings the message of The Lord to us.

For example, how do we act when we hear a homily where a priest tells us that premarital sex, artificial contraception or missing Mass on a Sunday are all grave sins? How about if we are told that illegally copying software or cheating on our income taxes is wrong? Do we obey, acknowledging that Jesus Christ still speaks through His Catholic Church or do we resist saying that the Church has no right to interfere in our personal lives?

Most of us have no problem with following the teaching of the Church, but consider this scenario: There is a message on the answering machine from someone that I find difficult to talk to. Maybe I don’t feel like playing with my kids and would rather relax because I’ve had a tough day at work. My wife, playing the role of the modern day prophet, reminds me that maybe I should be doing these “unpleasant” things instead of doing what I want. How do I react? I’d like to say that I promptly thank her for reminding me that I should place the needs of others before my own needs. Unfortunately, I can’t say that. Quite often, I react angrily trying to justify why I’m not being selfish. The anger generally comes from the embarrassment of having to be reminded to do the right thing. I suspect that I’m not alone in this struggle.

Advent is a great time to take a look at our willingness to obey God’s law. Do we react humbly when we encounter the modern day “John the Baptists” or do we grow angry as we let our pride take over? If you’re struggling with this, turn to Mary for help. She always sought to please God in all of her deeds and will assist you on your journey.

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