Call of duty: the prophet

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"A prophet is a conduit, a vessel for the holy," Dominican Sr. Barbara Reid said to an audience of religious sisters and brothers.

What does it mean to be "prophetic"?

Reid, as keynote speaker, answered that question and more at the Religious Formation Conference in Kansas City, Mo., this weekend. The theme this year? "Prophetic Religious Life: If Not Now … When?"

She spoke at length of Mary as a prophet.

She described how people were called to be prophets and what their situation was. For example: "… we think of the Galilean fisher folk, who are just in the midst of their ordinary everyday life, going about their ordinary business when Jesus calls them. And so, too, Mary is just going about her everyday ordinary business when the angel, God's Messenger, comes to her. …

"One of the elements in the call story, remember, is that the prophet, when first called, always pushes back. And if you're an authentic prophet, you usually are not too eager to take on this ministry. Beware of those who are really eager to be a prophet."

Take this short quiz that Reid presented before the audience (write a comment below if you know what each prophet's objection to being a prophet was):






"And so Mary too, has her objection. … Prophets know that what God asks of them is far beyond their human capabilities. But in every instance God reassures the prophet that it is true, that it is impossible if we were only working with human capabilities. But God always assures that God will be there and that God is able to overcome every obstacle."

Prophets are at first resistant of the call because they know full well that prophets risk rejection of their message, some opposition to it, and sometimes even death, she said.

That was just a taste of the keynote. Read future NCR print and online editions to find out more on this year's congress.

Reid is a professor of New Testament Studies , vice president and academic dean at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

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