Daily Reflection
July 14th, 2008

Brian Kokensparger

College of Arts and Sciences
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.

I am fascinated by the concept of a prophet. I picture a half-crazed man or woman, dressed in rags, looking off into the distance and seeing things that others cannot see – then railing against the current status quo and calling out for repentance to all who are within earshot.

But I’ve only personally seen one person do this – a skinny little man in a Detroit bus station. He scared me instead of inspiring me. I don’t believe he was a prophet. At least, I hope not. Because when Detroit’s Finest arrived, they were none too gentle with him.

Today’s readings are about many things: Isaiah, the prophet, rails against the hypocrites who go to great lengths to make showy offerings but do not do the simple things like helping orphans and widows. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus also stirs the pot a bit by saying that He comes to bring the sword, not peace. He goes on to say “. . . whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward . . . ”.

Well I wonder just what is a “prophet’s reward?” If it consists of what was given to the man at the bus station, I’m thinking “Thanks, but I’ll pass.”

On another note, today commemorates Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the Lily of the Mohawks. After losing her family to a smallpox epidemic (but surviving it herself), she dragged her disease-ravaged body over a long and arduous trail to arrive at the St. Francis Xavier mission near Montreal. There, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and set about teaching prayers to children and helping the infirmed. She died at the age of 24.**

Though I am no expert on Native American spirituality, I understand that one facet of “medicine” held by these indigenous peoples roughly can be viewed as something that catches the eye or ear as unusual, extraordinary, out-of-place.
Tekakwitha, the Mohawk woman who set out to help others despite her scarred face and diminished eyesight, probably attracted quite a bit of attention at the mission. Those who were healthy probably recoiled a bit from her, perhaps in fear that she may still have the disease. Those with prejudices against the Native American people may have mistreated her, may have wondered what of value – if anything – she might have to offer the mission and those who settled there. Yet, she was most likely a godsend to those orphans and widows specifically referenced by Isaiah.

After all of the smoke cleared, after generations of trappers and soldiers and hunters came and went, it was Kateri Tekakwitha who was constantly remembered as the one who gave prayers to the children and relief to the sick and aged. She was good medicine for the folks at the St. Francis Xavier mission, just as she is good medicine for indigenous peoples all over the world, just as she is good medicine for all of the rest of us today.

If we were to encounter Blessed Kateri today, with her scarred face and Mohawk ways, would we recoil? Would we let our prejudices take control of us? Or would we look beyond her earthly shell to see her now-beatified soul?
It is said that on her deathbed, her last words were spoken in her native tongue, translating to “Jesus, I love you.”
Ah! The prophet’s reward!

**Some of this information was taken from the National Tekakwitha Conference Website. Please visit the site for more information about this remarkable woman and the efforts of those in North America to honor her.

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