There is a story of a bishop, and I will not say who the bishop is, who was asked by somebody in the diocese to do a creative project. They wanted to do an inventory for people so that they could figure out what their gifts were. The project was to figure out some of the charisms and gifts of The Holy Spirit. The bishop said, “Why don’t you go and work on this and show me what you come up with.” So, this person worked on this inventory, and she went through scripture and our traditions. She came up with about twenty gifts, fruits, and charisms of the Holy Spirit. She brought that back to the bishop, and the bishop looked through the list. As he was looking, he came across one of the listed words. He said, “Why is prophecy there?” She said, “Well, it is one of the charisms of the Holy Spirit.” The bishop said, “I do not want any new prophets in my diocese. Get rid of that one.”
It is kind of funny because prophets . . . you cannot control them. You cannot control what comes out of a prophet’s mouth. Usually prophets are rejected. They are not accepted because they are speaking the truth in the midst of a world or a people that does not want to hear about it. Yet, we hear in the gospel today “Whoever receives a prophet, receives a prophet’s reward.” What does that mean? A prophet is usually trying to tell us about eternal life. If you receive a prophet and the message of a prophet, what is the prophet’s reward? Eternal life.
It is so important for us to listen for the voices of prophets. There could be false prophets, too. There can be crazy people that are speaking false prophecies and false lies. We have to be discerning. We have to accept what is true prophecy and reject what is false prophecy. We hear this throughout all of our scriptures. God is always trying to send us prophets. We hear that John the Baptist was a prophet. We hear in Luke: “I will send them prophets and apostles and some of them they will kill and persecute.” We hear in 1Thesolonians: “Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything and retain what is good.” We hear in the Acts of the Apostles: “’In the last day it shall be,’ God declares, ‘That I will pour out my spirit on all flesh and your sons and daughters shall prophesy.’”
Over and over and over, God is telling us to listen to the prophets. Yet, even today, we have this weird feeling about prophets. We have weird feelings about prophesy when you hear about it. There are different prophecies that have come from Mary. There are different prophecies that have come in revelations over the years, and we are kind of weary about prophecies. In a sense we should be. We are supposed to test prophecies. On the other hand, God keeps sending us prophets because we have a tendency not to listen to him and not to listen to his prophets.
There is a prophesy that is kind of recent that I want to share with you because it has a lot to do with what is going on in today’s world. I do not know if you have heard of Dr. Ralph Martin, but Ralph Martin is the founder of some of the charismatic movements and over the years he has been a big leader in the charismatics. He is a wonderful teacher. He teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary. He has written one of my favorite books in the spiritual life called “Fulfillments of all Desire.” He talks about this prophesy that started back in 1975/1976. He says that back in 1975, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal first ever conference took place in Rome. All these people gathered together in Rome in Saint Peter’s Basilica and there were these prophecies that were coming about. People were gifted with the Holy Spirit and speaking these prophecies.
One of the prophecies that came about a year later was from Fr. Michael Scanlan. Anybody know who that is? Fr. Michael Scanlan was the one that really made Steubenville Franciscan University what it is today. He was the president for 26 years, and he has made that such a strong institution. In 1976, Fr. Michael Scanlan gave this prophecy, which I am going to tell you at the end of the homily. It is a paragraph long, and I will read it to you.
There are a few things you need to know about prophets. First of all, prophesy is a gift that is given by God. It is a gift, so we should be happy about prophesy. They are a gift that is given to us by God. Because it is a gift, people cannot be self-proclaimed prophets. The gift is a message that is given to them by God. Secondly, they are holy people. People that are prophets are holy people, and their whole lives radiates holiness. So, false prophets will not be holy people, and their lives will not reflect holiness. Thirdly, their message is in line with the church so what they say does match up with church teaching. As I said before, many times they are telling us what we should already know in church teaching. Fourth is they are rejected. Usually when a prophet comes by with a message, they are going to be rejected. Even in today’s time they will be blocked from the news. They will be barred from Facebook. They will be slandered. They will be libeled and, in the end, they might even be killed. Fifth is we need to be discerning. We need to try to discern if this is a message of God or is it not? But, as we hear in the gospel “If it is of God, we need to create a place in our hearts and our lives to receive prophets and to receive their message” because our initial instinct is rejection. They are crazy. I do not have time for this. I do not want to read another prophesy. We tend to dismiss them.
In these times, our world is pretty crazy right? There is a lot going on with the Pandemic. There is a lot going on with rioting. There is a lot going on with racial injustice. Statues are being torn down. Churches are being burned. Stained glass windows are being destroyed. We might need a prophet right now to give us some wisdom and guidance. Fr. Michael Scanlan, as I mentioned before, is a Catholic priest. He was a Franciscan the Third Order of Saint Francis. He just died a few years ago, but he gave this prophesy back in 1976. I think it is a prophesy we all might listen to.
“Son of man, do you see that city going bankrupt? Are you willing to see all your cities going bankrupt? Are you willing to see the bankruptcy of the whole economic system you rely on now so that all money is worthless and cannot support you?”
We see this with everything going on financially. We see businesses because of these hard times going out of business, small businesses, and banks. Just a crazy time.
“Son of man, do you see the crime and lawlessness in your city streets, and towns, and institutions? Are you willing to see no law—no order—no protection for you except that which I myself give you?
We see the ruin in our streets. We hear people actually want to defund the police. There is this cry out to have no order and no law.
“Son of man, do you see the country that you love and which you are now celebrating? A country’s history that you look back on with nostalgia? Are you willing to see no country? No country to call your own except those I give you as my body. Will you let me bring you life in my body and only there?”
We see right now this whole Marxist and Communist idea of wanting to tear down the country.
“Son of man, do you see those churches which you can go to so easily now? Are you ready to see them with bars across their doors, with doors nailed shut? Are you ready to base your life only on me and not on any particular structure? Are you ready to depend only on me and not on all the institutions of schools and parishes that you are working so hard to foster?”
Our churches were locked for three months. Is that not crazy? We will see after these difficult times that there will be parishes that close because of it. There will probably be Catholic schools that close.
“Son of man, I call you to be ready for that. That is what I am telling you about. The structures are falling and changing—it is not for you to know the details now—but do not rely on them as you have been.”
Here is the good news:
“I want you to make a deeper commitment to each other. I want you to trust one another, to build interdependence that is based on my Spirit. It is an interdependence that is not a luxury. It is an absolute necessity for those who will base their lives on me and not the structures of the pagan world. I have spoken and it will take place. My word will go forth to my people. They may hear and they may not—and I will respond accordingly—but this is my word.”
Finally, the last sentence:
“Look about you, son of man. When you see it all shut down, when you see everything removed which has been taken for granted, and when you are prepared to live without these things, then you will know what I am making ready.”
I do not know what that does to your heart. For me, that kind of scares me – just the thought of every institution breaking down. But he says in order for us to truly love him, we can love nobody else more than him. That is like the gospel: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Whoever loves any institution or goes to any institution before me is not worthy of me.
Now here is for you. What do we do with prophecy?
The first thing is what we hear in Saint Paul to the Corinthians: “Pursue and earnestly desire the gifts, especially that of prophesy”. Did you know that you are supposed to be a prophet? By baptism you were baptized as priest, prophet and king. You are supposed to speak God’s word in the world today, but it is a gift. What I want you to do, maybe even after this homily, is ask for the gift of prophesy. That you can speak the truth in this world of darkness. How does it happen? It can happen just through knowledge. God can give us some knowledge. It might happen through images. God may give you images or visions or sounds or words or pictures in your mind. He might appear to you, or Mary might appear to you. You can have some apparitions. It could happen in your dreams. Something that you dream could become prophetic. It might be something external like in your senses. We get this from the prophet Daniel who literally saw the writing on the wall. You might literally see something on a billboard that is a prophetic message of God. Or it could be just something that he simply gives to you as infused knowledge or wisdom. Hopefully, we have that gift, but as we hear in scripture, not everybody is given that gift. If you do not have that gift, you should look to others who have that gift and realize that we need to be discerning, as I said before, that they may give us a prophetic message.
Finally, ask ourselves at every moment, “God what are you trying to tell me?” Right here at Mass today, “God, what are you trying to tell me?” When he tells us and gives us that prophetic message, it is good not only for ourselves, but for the whole community of believers. Realize that prophesy is a real gift in the church. Realize that you are called a prophet and realize that we are constantly called to ask ourselves, “God, what is it you are saying to me?”