“Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!”
Moses’ response to Joshua’s complaint about some people receiving the gift of prophecy, just not in the expected way, reflects his great desire that all of the Jew- ish people could walk in God’s presence, receiving His guidance. However, that level of availability of the prophetic gifts was not to be the case for another 1300 years. It wasn’t until Pentecost in 33 AD that the gift of prophecy became far more available to the Christian faithful.
The fact that that first outpouring of the gift of prophecy caused some concern should not be a great surprise; in fact, it is the first time that gift is mentioned in the Scripture. Up to that point, there had been sporadic events in which some had experienced more specific communication from the Holy One, but the event of the 70 elders recounted in the first reading marks the real beginning of the use of that gift.
What is that gift? Popular parlance today usually sees “prophecy” as a future-telling gift, but in fact, as the content of the Biblical prophetic books demonstrates, it is much more about God communicating His desires in the here and now and is only rarely concerned with future events. Typically, the gift involves God Himself speaking through a man or woman to deliver a message to the people of God. As was noted, it was very rare in the earlier Scriptures but fairly commonplace after Pentecost. It became fairly rare again after the turn of the first millennium but, after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the late 1960s, it has once again become a gift that is flourishing. And, not unlike that first “prayer meeting” recounted in Numbers, its use today has not been without controversy. But, since the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation fairly strongly points out, “all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by the Sacred Scripture,” so any consideration of this remarkable gift should be grounded in what the Scripture says about it.
Concerning that, St. Paul’s repeated admonitions to all the Christian faithful to pursue this gift should particularly be noted, e.g., “Earnestly desire the higher gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:1) It should also be noted that the occurrence of the gift of prophecy was one of the most common results of having received the Holy Spirit, as is demonstrated repeatedly in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul proclaims that the gift is for all the people of God, a vehicle for the Lord to be able to more concretely direct and guide us. In our time, thanks to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, many people indeed have been experiencing this gift, and even some are being given the gift in a more regular way, that they may serve the people of God with that charism.
Many folks have had the experience–often the frustrating experience–of trying to receive the gift so that they might more concretely hear from the Lord. While there can be several different factors why that might be difficult in some cases, one of the important lessons that the Lord Jesus gives us is that we need to persevere and not give up when we are pursuing some spiritual gift that the Scriptures make it clear we should be pursuing. One of the reasons we have Upper Room at Christ the King is to provide a concrete way that people can come and learn more about prophecy and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit and actually put them to use in their lives. To that end, we have also done different courses or seminars that can assist in that. In fact, beginning in October, one of our parishioners, Sean Breeden, who is particularly gifted in this area, will be offering a four-week Prophecy Workshop. It will take place during the Tuesdays of October, from the 5 to the 26; 7-8:30pm in the gym. To learn more and to register, go to ctkcc.net/prophecy.
This gift can be a huge asset in our lives as followers of the Lord Jesus. Now would be a particularly useful time to hear more clearly from the Lord! — Fr. Ed Fride