“Prophets, true prophets, those who risk their neck for proclaiming “the truth” even if uncomfortable, even if “it is not pleasant to listen to”. And not “critics”, those who “like nothing”, who behave like judges: “No, this is not good, no, that is not good, this is how it must be …”. The Church needs prophets to grow and move forward, Pope Francis says today in Santa Marta; that is, she needs people capable of “crying” over the people whom she calls towards the truth, to share their sufferings, to worry about their loss of orientation. As we know, this has happened many times over the centuries, and still today we see it in different forms, contexts and ways, it stirs “anger” and unleashes “persecution”. As happened to Saint Stephen.
Starting with the figure of the first martyr, protagonist of today’s first reading from the Acts, Bergoglio preaches his morning homily – reported by Vatican News – in which he explains the mission of the prophet in the Church and in the world, as well as the risks that this mission entails, starting with the retaliation of a furious people who do not accept those which seem to them “reproaches”, but that instead are an occasion for growth and hope.
“The true prophet is not a “prophet of misfortune”, Pope Francis stresses, “the true prophet is a prophet of hope”, someone who helps “to heal the roots, to heal the sense of belonging to God’s people so to move forward. The prophet is not a professional “reproacher”… No, they are people of hope. A prophet reproaches when necessary and opens doors overlooking the horizon of hope. But, the real prophet, if they do their job well, risks their neck”.
Stephen did so, he risked it, he pushed it, accusing the people, the scribes and elders who had dragged him to court. “Uncircumcised in the heart and ears. You always resist the Holy Ghost. You are not consistent with the life that comes from your roots” he said. And they, who “had their hearts closed”, “did not want to listen to him and no longer remembered the history of Israel”.
“Rabid in their hearts, these old men and scribes – Bergoglio recalls – all jumped on Stephen” and – as the Scriptures tell us – “dragged him out of the city to stone him”. A dramatic scene, repeated many times in the history of the world. “When the prophet reaches the truth and touches the heart, either the heart opens or it becomes stone unleashing anger and persecution…”, the Pope observes. “Prophets have always been persecuted for telling the truth”. Precisely for having said it in a “direct” and not “lukewarm” way, for it is the fruit of discernment and capability to “cry over the people” to whom that truth is addressed.
This proves whether a prophet is truly worthy of this name – the Pope calls it a “test” – to distinguish a prophet from a critic, to understand that “when they speak strong they are telling the truth”, that is “this prophet is able not only to say, but to cry over the people who have abandoned the truth”.
Like Jesus who “on the one hand reproached with harsh words: “perverse and adulterous generation”; on the other hand, he wept over Jerusalem. This is the test. A true prophet is one who is able to cry for the people and to say strong things when needed” Francis says.
The Church needs prophets. These kinds of prophets. “I will say more: She needs us all to be prophets,” he adds. “Not critics, that’s something else. One thing is to always be a disapproving judge who likes nothing, “No, this is no good, that is no good, no good, no good; this must be so…”. That is not a prophet. The prophet is that who prays, who looks at God and at the people, and feels pain when the people are wrong, the prophet cries – they are able to cry over the people – but they are also able to “play it out well” to tell the truth”.
“May the Church not lack this service of prophecy – it is Francis’ concluding prayer – so that She may always move forward”.
Article from http://www.lastampa.it/2018/04/17/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/the-church-needs-prophets-not-critics-who-like-nothing-iXLt9UhrmIirQcT9HLDrEM/pagina.html