Called to Be a Prophetic People


Aggie Neck

"Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Prophetic gifts on the rise! Dramatic results are reported all over the world! Hearts are being changed! Lives being renewed! Grace does abound in our land!"

Wouldn't that be a headline story? Wouldn't that be good news? I guess then, the question we must ask ourselves is, "Why isn't it?"

When Jesus spoke with the woman at the well, their conversation progressed from her seeing him first as a Jew, then as a prophet, then as the Messiah. This progression of understanding resulted from the fact that he revealed truth to her and even pointed out her sins (Jn. 4:4-42). What is most amazing and apparent is that she never became angry, but rather seemed excited with the revealed truth. So much so, in fact, that she couldn't wait to tell everyone in her town. As a result they too came to believe because "we have heard for ourselves" (v. 42). Jesus was indeed a prophetic voice and an example for us to follow.

All the gifts that God gives us are meant to be used daily, not just at prayer meetings. God's gifts are needed tools, tools for the building up of the kingdom, until the prayer that Jesus taught us becomes reality: "May your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." At a recent gathering of leaders, one of the men gave a prophecy that has stayed on my heart: "you have worn out the gifts I gave you without ever learning how to use them." It is learning how to yield to and use the gifts that will help and equip us. That is how we will become a prophetic people to the church, families, friends and those to whom God sends us.

As we look at the gifts of tongues, interpretation of tongues and prophecy (gifts that say something), word of knowledge, and word of wisdom (gifts that reveal something), they all have something in common. These are gifts that require listening and knowing whose "voice" we hear. Scripture clearly tells us that we can know the "voice" of the Lord and distinguish it from other voices. Jesus tells us that the "shepherd walks in front of his sheep and they follow him because they recognize his voice; they will not follow a stranger because they do not recognize a stranger's voice" (Jn. 10:4-5). When we have learned to listen and truly know the Master's voice we will then be able to speak with confidence about that which God is trying to say to us. It is like "knowing that you know that you know." Prayer meetings are places of training and practice where we become comfortable with hearing and knowing when God is leading us to speak out and to distinguish what is truth from fable or lie.

We are called to be united to Jesus as a branch attached to the vine, for we are told that apart from him we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). It is our union with Jesus that equips us and helps us to speak out. When we try to speak to members of our family or people in our neighborhoods or workplaces without God preparing the way, you can be sure that you will be met with resistance, hostility or outright anger. However, if we are acting under the prophetic power of the Holy Spirit - having listened and heard the words that God would have us say - the results are always different. God does give us the right words to say at the right time. It can be a word of comfort or it can be profound truth spoken in a way that causes others to listen and believe.

God is always opening doors for us, whether in a group or with an individual. We may hear statements made that we know are not correct (for example, New Age teaching that has found its way into churches, or misunderstandings of church teachings). In fact these statements are deceptions that have been taught as truth. God can and does give us words that will reveal the fallacy of false beliefs. He could call to mind a simple Scripture to be spoken in love. Or, we might be filled with such a logical explanation of the error of such thinking that it causes the person to really examine and look at their reasoning. It could be a knowing within our spirit that God is revealing something that needs to be addressed in prayer. When we recognize the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the voice of our Lord, we will not hesitate to speak out in love about the God who heals the broken hearted and waits for the sinner to return to him and to wholeness.

Being a prophetic people, however, is not just about revealing error or sin. The Jubilee Year offered a prime example. It was celebrated with joy by some and ignored by others who were not even aware of the graces that were available. God used many people to speak out and bring this message to family and friends. Being a prophetic people means being a herald of the Good News, at all times, whether it is convenient or inconvenient. We have a task to perform, a ministry to fulfill, and that is to evangelize (2 Tim. 4:2, 5).

As we enter this new springtime for the church, we are now more than ever called to be a prophetic voice, sounding like a trumpet the glorious news of salvation. Doing so must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit and by using the gifts that God gives. The gifts are tools for preparing the hearts and minds of those to whom we are sent. This is the only way we will be able to complete the task to which we have been called.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 951), under the subtitle "Communion of charisms," we are told: "Within the communion of the church the Holy Spirit 'distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank' for the building up of the church." Our God does speak to us and gifts us for the task. Hesitation and fear can no longer be reasons for not speaking. His message is hope, hope for everyone. We cannot let it go unspoken!

(Aggie Neck is a member of the National Service Committee. She co-directs Servant House, a house of prayer in the Diocese of Alexandria. Aggie and her husband, Clyde, live in Marksville, Louisiana.)

From the Diocese of Marquette Michigan, U.P. Catholic Charismatic Newsletter (Summer 2001)