Almost two years ago I wrote a reflection on Luke’s parallel
presentation of precisely these two parables and so, although they lend themselves
to a repeated reflection, this time I will focus on the first reading. As
that reading shows, it is not rare that the prophetic message is conveyed
using as a vehicle some action or gesture, instead of words. Hosea and
Ezekiel are perhaps the most clear examples of that, but today it is
Jeremiah’s turn to act prophetically.
Some times it is the people observing such action that ask the prophet for
an explanation: “Will you not tell us what your actions mean?” [Ez. 11:8-9]
Here by contrast it is the Lord who volunteers meaning to the prophet himself,
not to the people for whom the action is ultimately intended. Amazingly enough
the prophet is not aware of the prophetic meaning of what he is doing at
Yahweh’s command and it is Yahweh who both chooses the action and declares
In my own experience I seem to recognize yet another mode of prophetic action.
The meaning of what I do is not revealed to me by God, nor do observers ask
me what my way of acting means. It is rather that, without my being aware
myself that what I do may have prophetic impact, at times the Lord seems
to lead others to discover in whatever it was I did a meaning that is instructive
for them and helpful at that moment.
Whether we like it or not, our actions convey some meaning to others. For
better or worse we end up being role models for others irrespective of our
intending or wanting to be so. Some time ago basketball star Charles Barkley
was reminded by a teammate that they were role models for many. Charles responded
almost angrily: “I don’t want to be a role model”, to which his teammate
replied: “Charles, you don’t have a choice. We are that for many youngsters.”
We may not have the wide audience that Charles Barkley had, but what we do
is almost always observed by some. Our choice is not whether to be role models,
but only what kind of role models we are going to be. Or for that matter
what kind of prophetic —or unprophetic— message our living will convey.