bible blog 298

This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church

Reading 1, Revelation 10:8-11

8 Then I heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go’, it said, ‘and take that open scroll from the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’

9 I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but it will taste as sweet as honey.’

Tutu: Prophet without bitterness

10 So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and I ate it and it tasted sweet as honey, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour.

11 Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time against many different nations and countries and languages and kings.’

The words of God are sweet in the mouth of the prophet-he/she has pleasure in speaking the message-but as they are digested they sour the stomach-when they become part of the prophet’s life they bring bitterness. This well sums up what we know of prophets in the biblical tradition. They express excitement, awe, ecstasy in their calling; their words dance with rhythm and gesture; but they take on more and more the pain both of God and the sinful people.

Some very blessed prophets appear to escape the bitterness. Desmond Tutu, for example, or John Berger, to mention a secular prophet, have kept a sense of the sweetness of their calling, but they are rare spirits .More often, prolonged meditation on the follies of humanity leads to the anger of Amos, the despair of Jeremiah, the impatience of Marx and Tolstoy.

the bitterness of Jeremiah

Gospel, Luke 19:45-48

45 Then he went into the Temple and began driving out those who were busy trading, saying to them, 46 ‘According to scripture, my house shall be a house of prayer but you have turned it into a bandits’ den.’

47 He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, in company with the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, 48 but they could not find a way to carry this out because the whole people hung on his words.

Even in Jesus, prophetic anger flashed out from time to time. We can understand, as from a distance, that his passionate love of Abba God and of people could lead to exasperation that the latter would not understand the former. His anger is precious, signifying his utter opposition to the commercial exploitation of holy things and the insult to the poor.

It is a post-modern heresy to imagine that we are only ever faced with differences in taste; and may therefore go our own way without questioning the choice of others. No, sometimes we are faced with evil and we must conquer it or die in the attempt. That’s what happens to Jesus in this story: he takes his stand with authority and is immediately the target of upper class killers. They’re still around too, as well as the prophets.

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