When we think of prophets, we may think of people from Scripture like Moses, Isaiah, Elijah, or John the Baptist. These men were bold and fearless. Many miraculous deeds were accomplished by their hands, like the parting of the Red Sea, raising the dead to life, healing people, or being taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Because of their extraordinary examples, there may exist this idea that the role of prophet is reserved for a chosen few. The truth is, anyone who has been baptized is anointed as a prophet. And yes, that includes you!
Church teaching asserts that every baptized Christian is called to be a prophet. In Scripture, a prophet is a messenger of the Lord and a proclaimer of God’s truth. Through the sacrament of baptism, the Christian is anointed and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, who empowers the Christian to live a life of holiness, to grow in faith, and to proclaim the Gospel to others. Not only is this gift from the Holy Spirit a personal blessing, but it also comes with a responsibility to share the truth of the Gospel with those around us.
The Church understands the prophetic mission of the baptized to be rooted in the example of Jesus Christ, who came to proclaim the Good News of salvation and to liberate people from sin and death. Christ’s prophetic mission was not limited to his own ministry, but extended to his followers as well. Jesus called his disciples to be his witnesses in the world, to continue his work of preaching the Gospel and healing the sick, and to confront the forces of darkness that stand in opposition to the kingdom of God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope.” (64)
How do we as Christians live as prophets?
- Listen to God’s voice. God uses us to accomplish his plan for salvation. In order for the prophets to be able to communicate God’s message to the people, they had to be able to hear and respond to the voice of God. As Jesus himself said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27) The prophet Isaiah provides us with a powerful example of what it means to hear and respond to the voice of God when he hears the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” Isaiah responds, “Here am I. Send me!” (Is 6:8) This willingness to answer God’s call, even when it leads us out of our comfort zones, is at the heart of what it means to be a prophet.
- Live a holy life and serve others. The baptized are called to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel by living a life of holiness. This means avoiding sinful behavior and cultivating virtues. It means bringing peace in times of unrest, justice amid injustice, and hope and aid to the poor and marginalized. We are called to defend the dignity of every human person and to work for the common good. The baptized are to be salt and light in the world (Mt 5:13-16), to be a sign of hope and love amid the darkness and despair that often afflict our world. Living an authentic Christian life and following the teachings of the Church will be a compelling prophetic witness for all who know you. This work of evangelization is an essential part of the prophetic mission of the baptized.
- Speak the truth. The prophetic mission of the baptized is not without its challenges. The baptized are called to confront the evils in the world. This means speaking out against sinfulness and working for the transformation of society. The baptized are called to be prophets by speaking the truth, even when it is unpopular or uncomfortable. Prophets throughout history have been met with resistance, opposition, and often hostility. They suffered persecution and even death for what was right. Jesus warned his disciples that they would be like “lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Lk 10:3) The same is true for the baptized. The Christian prophet may not be spared suffering but will be given every necessary grace and strength to accomplish the mission the Lord has given.
The impact prophets can have on the lives of others is significant. When God speaks, or asks us to speak on his behalf, it is always with the purpose of saving souls. Like the prophet Jeremiah, we may be reluctant to embrace this prophetic mission, but may the words spoken to him by God also speak to our hearts and give us strength:
“… for to all to whom I send you you shall go,
and whatever I command you you shall speak.
Be not afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you.”