like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord's word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
- Sirach 28:1-4
In the Advent carol “Watchman Tell Us Of the Night,” the lyricist, Sir John Bowring, presents a dialogue between a watchman and a traveler. In the song, the night is far spent and the morning star announces the coming of the dawn:
Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o’er yon mountains height,
See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes—it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.
The prophet, like the traveler in this carol, is the one who is able to discern the presence and action of God at work in the world and who is sent to communicate God’s will for the world. Advent is a season of prophets: Elijah, Baruch, Micah, Zechariah, among others, and, most especially, Isaiah and John the Baptist.
The call to serve as a prophet was not limited to figures in Sacred Scripture. Throughout the history of the Church men and women have engaged the world around them, admonishing, challenging, inspiring, and changing the lives of those whom they encountered, giving voice to God’s presence and desires for every person.
When Saint Thomas More refused to submit to King Henry VIII’s demand that More recognize him as supreme head of the Church in England, he became part of the long procession of prophets who wind their way through history. The Second Vatican Council reminded us that all Christians share in the prophetic mission of Jesus, himself (see Lumen Gentium, 12). It is the responsibility of each of us to exercise our “ability and responsibility to accept the gospel in faith and to proclaim it in word and deed, without hesitating to courageously identify and denounce evil… to allow the newness and the power of the gospel to shine out every day” (St. John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 14).
As we look forward to the Third Sunday of Advent, reflect on how you can joyfully live out the prophetic message that has been entrusted to you, personally and individually.
Prayer for Saturday of the Second Week of Advent +
May the splendor of your glory dawn in our hearts,
we pray, almighty God,
that all shadows of the night may be scattered
and we may be shown to be children of light
by the advent of your Only Begotten Son.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)