WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Guest Editorial: In praise of prophets

We read them at most Sunday Masses – Ezekiel, Amos, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Micah – their names as familiar in the Catholic calendar as Mary, Paul, Peter and James. They are standout leaders on our Christian pilgrimage of faith.
Prophets all. As was Jesus. A thousand homilies exhort us to follow their teachings as a way to being Jesus’ disciples.
Feb09Consedine1213.jpg What do prophets do that so upsets people? They ruffle feathers. They make their listeners uncomfortable. Those mentioned, including Jesus, were critical of the civil and religious leadership of their time, particularly in relation to the destructive effect they were having on the poor. They all challenged the status quo to point the way to the future where the Reign of God would come about.
There have always been prophets. Throughout history God has called people to this role.
In recent memory, we have towering figures like Mary McKillop, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Te Whiti o Rongomai, Mohandas Gandhi, Blessed John XXIII, Archbishop Oscar Romero and Phillip Berrigan among others. These were ordinary people who answered a call to challenge injustice and promote the need for social change. Where God’s voice needed to be heard, they spoke up and acted. Attempts were made to marginalise, belittle and ignore them.
But their legacy is unchallengeable – schools for the rural poor, a movement of hospitality and pacifism, a reforming Second Vatican Council, justice for the poor in Latin America, the Parihaka legacy of nonviolence, the Ploughshares movement.
There are thousands more, less known prophets who hear the same voice of God calling them to stand up, speak out and act. They highlight where evil prevails and good needs promoting. These include the three Waihopai Catholic Worker peacemakers – Fr Peter Murnane OP, Adrian Leason and Sam Land.
According to evidence from their trial, March 8 – 17, the base is an integral part of the US war effort. Information from Waihopai goes via the US military to the war makers in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can lead directly to the deaths of civilians, including women and children.
There are hundreds of statements of popes and other church leaders over the past 120 years which call us to action on issues of justice and peacemaking. According to the world Synod of Bishops in 1971, ‘action for justice is an integral part of being a Christian’. It is not an optional extra. The NZ Catholic Bishops said in 1997, ‘Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith’.
The bishops issued a pastoral letter that same year which stated, ‘Any form of injustice built into national and international structures does violence to fundamental human rights and dignity and is sinful. Such sinfulness needs to be confronted (my emphasis).’ Waihopai is clearly part of such an international structure. Having exhausted all other means, the three sought to enflesh the biblical vision of the prophet Isaiah (Is 2:6-11) and Catholic social teaching on justice by confronting it.
At our baptism, a seed of the gift of prophecy is planted within each of us.  Many choose to ignore it while others struggle to bring it to life in small ways.  For the courageous few, it flowers and produces wonderful fruit.
It has flowered in the three Ploughshares peacemakers who sought to expose the base’s dangerous role.
We should honour such people.
Fr Consedine was present during the trial.