`Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff.` (Isaiah 41)
It`s tough being a prophet! You`ve been given a message. Now, how do you spread it? The heart of the message can be easily lost with an ineffective, pablum style of presentation. But, the images of sharp teeth and crushing make me shiver. It`s not my style! Is it because I`m a pacifist, or a coward?
I travelled to a meeting for lay formation this past weekend, and had the pleasure of being hosted by a community of religious brothers at their novitiate. I had a lively, late night conversation with a young novice about the present role of women in the Church. We agreed on our message. We both support true equality for women in all aspects of society, including within our institutional Church. We differed on our strategy. With the zealous energy of youth, he argued for speaking out loudly for women`s ordination despite the consequences. He believed that this is what Jesus would have done. This is what Jesus is calling us to do, to be fearless prophets in the face of persecution.
I have to admit that I was feeling my age. With the lateness of the hour, and the relaxing effects of a couple glasses of wine, thoughts of playing the prophet were too exhausting. I shared my belief that the way to effective change is to ensure that you still have a voice at the table. And, ensuring that you have this place sometimes means that you have to put the more controversial issues on the back burner. Yes, they`re important, but if they get you kicked out into the margins, what good can you do there?
I felt I gave a good, reasoned, and mature response. (The mature bit came with some inner groaning!) But it gave me lots to ponder. The words of Isaiah in today`s first reading were a nudge to more reflection. How do you know when it`s time to soften your agenda, or put it aside for the good of the larger dialogue? How do you know when it`s time to sharpen your teeth and speak out with no holds barred, regardless of the consequences?
It`s tough being a prophet.