There is an important distinction about what it meant to be a prophet in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word which is translated to ‘prophet’ is ‘nabi,’ which means “God’s mouthpiece.” Prophets did not foretell the future; rather, they confronted the people when God was displeased with their behavior, (breaking the covenant), and then tried to encourage a return to God lest calamity would befall them. God did give the prophet knowledge of what could happen if the people persisted in their sinfulness, but the prophet had no way of knowing if it would actually happen or how it would happen because they did not know how the people would respond. The prophet was a messenger and therefore he (or she)** was not a judge of the people: judging was God’s job. Thus, Jeremiah was a ‘mouthpiece’ for God, speaking His word consistently for many years. Since Baruch was the man who recorded Jeremiah’s words, we could say he was ‘the mouthpiece for the mouthpiece.’ Or we could say that he learned to live prophetically by literally following in the footsteps of Jeremiah, going where he went, assisting him, and even risking his own life by rescuing him from prison as Jerusalem fell. Baruch made sure the words of Jeremiah found their audience, often doing so quite heroically and at great risk to his own safety.
In order to enter into Advent more fully we need to act as a messenger in the way in which Baruch did. That means we listen to the Lord in our prayer and we reflect over the words of the Advent Scripture readings, letting them take root in our hearts. It only takes a few minutes each day to do this. And like Baruch, we must be willing to act a bit heroically with kindness, peace, and love. We do this by offering respect and dignity (through our time, talent, and/or treasure) to the poor, the lonely, the downtrodden, the depressed, the ill, the marginalized, and the outcast, welcoming them into our friendship. We need to let mercy and justice be our company, bringing love to those who are without it, forgiving those who have wronged us, and working for a more just world through our actions. We must break down the walls of prejudice and hatred by being open to the alien and welcoming to the stranger. We must be an example of mercy and compassion to those who are not merciful and compassionate. In doing so, we will be living the message of the One for whom we wait: Jesus.
©Michele L. Catanese
* The translation I am using for all the Scripture passages is the New American Bible.
** By the definition I have used, Deborah, (Book of Judges) was considered a prophet.
Note: Next post will be December 17.
1. This is a photo I took on a rare snow day in Houston a few years back. The lemon on the tree, and all the plants, were 'surprised' by snow in December that year. I chose this picture for the opening of the entry because it seemed like winter, and obviously Advent, was in a hurry to come that year. There is a lesson in readiness here.
2. This incredible painting is called The Appearance of Christ Before the People, by Russian artist Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov. (1837-57) I love this because it shows Jesus coming over a hill into the scene as John the Baptizer points to Him declaring: "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The future apostles Peter, Andrew, John, and Nathaniel are there, as well as the rich young man who would have an encounter with Jesus later on. I found this on a website which is worth a look at, (Aletieia) along with other artistic works, and that is where I obtained the explanation as well. https://aleteia.org/slideshow/slideshow-russian-art-goes-to-the-vatican
3. This is an icon of Jeremiah and Baruch which is housed in the Heritage Museum in Amsterdam. It was one of the few icons I could find which depicted both men.
4. I took this photo of Mont Blanc in the French Alps during a recent trip to Europe. I thought it would be appropriate here because it speaks of the glory and splendor of God.
5. Since I emphasized that prophetic living includes living with hope which we share, it only seemed right that I have this icon accompany the text. This is Mother of Holy Hope, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It would be inappropriate, in my mind, to write an Advent blog without a pregnant Mary accompanying it. No one speaks to Advent more than Mary, the Mother of our Lord. You can find this icon at https://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-holy-hope-263-william-hart-mcnichols.html
6 & 7. I chose to use the Advent wreath with one candle lit since this will be posted for the first week in Advent. But since I referred to the readings of week 1 and 2, and because I will not be posting again until week 3, it seemed like there should be both candles lit at the end of the post.
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