We need new prophets
Prophets don't come often. But they play a crucial role. Their mandate is to deliver a message that strikes at the heart of people's realities.
The prophet's message though often runs counter to public opinion. And yet that is where their authenticity lies. If they are indeed sent by God, their message ought to be life-changing.
Their message, in other words, needs to be countercultural.
The legitimacy of prophets thus does not lie only in their divine gifts of healing, miracles, and visions. All these are important if only to testify to their divine calling. But there are, after all, many people who claim to accomplish these things.
In the history of religions, prophets have typically spoken against oppression, injustice, immorality, and murder. They have in effect challenged the status quo that benefited only a few.
The only problem is that prophets, rare as they are, often go unrecognized. Even Christ himself said that "no prophet is accepted in his own country."
But this does not mean we should not seek them. These days we need prophets. But not only of the religious type.
Religious prophets have to be certain about their divine calling before they could even embark on a mission. But these days, a divine voice that tells us right from wrong is not even necessary.
We already know that murder is wrong. We know that corruption is wrong. We know that bribery is wrong. We know that justice that favors only those who can afford it is wrong. We know that sacrificing our children on the altar of national cleansing is wrong.
In other words we do not need God to reveal moral laws in an unequivocal manner. What we need instead is for people to speak against the majority's complacency.
For this to happen we need new prophets. Their bravery and fortitude will give us fresh hope that the soul of our society can be reclaimed. Regardless of the trouble, it is worth reclaiming.
In a recent piece, Leloy Claudio wrote about the need for an alternative dispensation to replace the bloodthirsty narrative of Philippine politics. In my view, his alternative dispensation calls for the rise of new prophets.
Prophecy, in this light, also speaks of the future. While prophets often come to preach a message of doom and judgment, they too have the power to inspire the next generation.
Jose Rizal himself admitted that he was not writing for his time: "I am writing for other ages. If this could read me, they would burn my books, the work of my whole life. On the other hand, the generation which interprets these writings will be an educated generation; they will understand me and say: Not all were asleep in the nighttime of our grandparents."
And so at this point we need new prophets to arise from every corner.
The Catholic Church has a prophetic tradition. But we also need to hear from other religious groups. Many of them have been fervent in prayer, but only for the salvation of souls. They have to start praying for the nation.
We also need to hear from politicians whose ideals remain unwavering. There are still some of them left.
But we need prophets to arise too from unexpected places.
We need young people to speak up. Too often we dismiss them for their naivety. But in reality, their innocence is what adults have regrettably lost.
We need to listen too to the poor among us. They have a lot to share, notwithstanding stories of suffering and injustices. And yet the learned among us think they know nothing.
In the sociology of religion, prophets emerge either in moments of national crisis or when religion has lost its potency. Either way, their main function is to stir up revival.
Prophecy in this sense cannot be a figment of the imagination. Nor can it find its potency in pep talk.
For prophets first speak truth to power. They do so because they believe that the future can be so much better.
Ours seems to be a time of uncertainty, both political and religious. There is therefore no better time for prophets to arise.
We need new prophets to question the status quo. They need to challenge our society's unending narrative in search of a national redeemer. Political parties have come and gone but the plot of our national story remains the same: suffering begets redemption begets suffering.
More importantly, we need new prophets to breathe new life. We need to be convinced that the future can still be full of hope.
Unfortunately, prophets don't come often. So when they do, may the rest of us take heed. – Rappler.com
Jayeel S. Cornelio, PhD is a sociologist of religion at the Ateneo de Manila University. The National Academy of Science and Technology has named him one of the 2017 Outstanding Young Scientists. Twitter: @jayeel_cornelio