The readings from daily Mass this week past should have been labeled “King and Prophet week.” Every day the first readings was a narrative about one of the Kings of Israel or Judah, a summary of their reign, and the proclamation of the prophets which came before them with the living Word of God. Prophets like Amos, Isaiah, and Jeremiah; as well as prophets whose names are unfamiliar to us; and prophets whose names were not recorded in Sacred Scripture. Kings that might not be familiar to you, but are a cast of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Two of the best were part of the narrative: Hezekiah and Josiah – kings held in almost the same esteem as King David – godly men who understood their role as leader – to lead the people of God more deeply into the covenant life and promises of God. Two of the worst were recounted: Hoshea the last of the northern kings and Zedekiah, the last of the Kings of Judah. They ruled with iniquity as had most of their predecessors. When they disappeared into exile, the time of Kings passed and all of Israel and Judah followed int exile, the promised land lost.
The job description of the King was simple: be witness and leader of the Covenant. To each king, a prophet spoke. Blessing them, encouraging them, holding before them the Word of God, the covenant, and cajoling them to be a living witness to the covenant. Witness to the eternal pledge “I am your God and you are my people!” Genesis 17, Exodus 6, Jeremiah 7 and 40 other places in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Prophets speaking to the Kings – how did that work out? Mixed results at best. Most kings never realized that the presence of the prophet was a sign that things were already afoul.
The message of the prophets is basically always the same – asking kings and people to see the iniquity of their lives. Great word iniquity. It encompasses sin, yes, but speaks more to the underlying crookedness. So often the prophet proclaim the avon of the people and the king. Avon is a word that means crookedness, something bent and is used to the describe the crookedness of our path, our posture, areas of our lives and loves in which we are not fully upright people. Not upright before the Lord – not a covenant people. And the prophets spoke of more than just personal sin.
Yes, the Kings were called out for their personal behavior, but the King and the people were called out for social sin, structural sin – the way in which they treated the widows, the orphans and the aliens among them. “Widows, the orphans and the aliens” – that phrase is biblical shorthand for the poor, the marginalized, the shunned, the excluded. The ones for whom there is no safety net, the ones who fall through the cracks unseen.
But then that is all history…right? Kings are not part of our world? Or are they? There are not prophets like Elijah or Jeremiah…or are there? “Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward” says today’s Gospel.
Pause for a moment and consider our 2nd reading: “Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus… by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” What is that newness of life? It is perhaps encapsulated in the anointing that accompanies the Sacrament: anointing as priest, prophet and King. You. Prophet and King
You’re the King. Here is your job description: live the covenant, lead your family and circle of friends to the covenant, be a light to the world, and when necessary be a prophetic voice. And that is going to require a willingness to be uncomfortable. First to recognize the avon – crookedness of our path, our posture, areas of our lives and loves in which we are not fully upright people before God. Not because of a particular action or failure, but because of the path we are walking… and, as “king” leading others.
And as king – to listen to the prophetic voices around you. Voices that make you uncomfortable, voice that you instinctively disagree with or want to ignore – and perhaps that is exactly the voice that needs listening to. Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter. Lots of voices, lots to consider. The kind doesn’t simply decide. The King considers, listens, forms a conscience, inspects the lifepath they walk, listens more, prays for wisdom, …and in the end leads…ever checking the path is made straight without avon.
Priest, prophet and king. And perhaps once you have begun to fulfill your role as King, a role speaks within the house and home, then one leads your kingdom into the world to take on a prophetic voice.
Maybe you will be like Elisha in the first reading offering comfort to a poor woman outside the spotlight. Maybe you will be like Jeremiah, boldly proclaiming in the public square. Most of will be like all the unnamed prophets finding a place and time to speak to Word of God into the world… “this is how we are called to be.” Holding up the light of the Gospel up to others – to invite – not condemn – but to invite them to an upright life.
In the Hebrew Scriptures kings got to be kings, and prophets got to be prophets. In these last days, each one of us is King and Prophet. It is the only way the world will willingly take up the cross of Christ and find their life. Lead and invite, one person at a time. For this you were baptized and anointed.
“Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus… by the glory of the Father, we too … live in newness of life.” Make that life count.