Marquetries and Prophets homily 7/8/2012
Two of our readings today speak of prophets and prophecy - Ezekiel and
St. Mark. And, we can see from them that to be a prophet is a tough job.
It's the task of every one of us. All the baptized share in the Church's
prophetic mission. Every baptized person
must be made to be like Christ. All are called to speak God's truth.
Prophets call us to live justly, work for peace, help the poor. We all need
to do those things and speak those words.
Before I probe today's readings, let me say that at our church we're
surrounded by prophets. Here they are. And up there. And across the
back. Prophets of monumental importance. Their words have come down
through the millennia. We look at 17 prophets every Sunday. And, they
look out at us. 17 prophets and 1 King - King David. These are
marquetries - beautiful panels of various inlaid woods - a gift to our
parish in the late 1950s. There are only two churches in the world that
have them. They were made by the Guilmet Studio, master craftsmen, in
the Montmartre section of Paris. In 1913, 99 years ago, the Archbishop of
Paris commissioned the marquetries for one of the world's great
churches, Sacre Coeur - Sacred Heart - set high on a hill in Paris.
Hundreds of thousands of tourists see them every year.
The artist from Guilmet created them thick enough so that they could be
cut in half and you'd have two sets. Sacre Coeur was built in the late
1870s and opened in 1880. It was a church constructed during a time of
great Catholic revival and intended to be a memorial to the 57,000 French
who were killed in the French Revolution a century earlier.
As is the case with many cathedrals and basilicas each successive
archbishop wants to enhance the building further by making additions.
So, in 1913 the archbishop wanted to honor the prophets and King David
by having these marquetries installed in the choir, which sits out in front
of the altar. The great sea of humanity would stand or sit out in front of
the choir. The marquetries were installed in the choir, just in front of the
altar, in Sacre Coeur in 1918. The other set - these here at Christ the King
- mysteriously made its way out of France, probably because of one of
the 2 World Wars. For a time we think they were in England and they later
arrived in New York - where Bishop Wright, our first bishop, found them
and purchased them - and gave them to Christ the King about 1957. The
interior of our church was designed around them. They're really
beautiful. And, sometime we should get up real close and
study them. Each marquetrie has one verse spoken by that prophet and
the text is in Latin, the historic language of the
Church. So here's Isaiah - "Haurietis aquas in gaudio de fontibus
salvatoris." "In joy you shall draw waters out of the fountains of the
And, here's Jeremiah - "In caritate perpetua dilexi te, ideo attraxi te."
"I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn you."
There are 4 major prophets. 3 of them are here in the sanctuary - Isaiah,
Daniel and Jeremiah. Why the builders put the 4th major prophet,
Ezekiel, over the door to the Johnson Room, I don't know. It reads:
"Quod perierat requiram et quod abjectum erat reducam."
"The lost I will search out and the strays I will bring back."
Maybe they could see into the future and knew that people would duck
into the Johnson Room during the sermons.
Back to today's readings.
The Prophet, any prophet, doesn't speak his own word - but God's.
We hear Ezekiel today: "The spirit entered into me and set me on my
feet, and I heard the Son of Man say to me, 'I am sending you to the
Israelites." The prophetic word is not from books we might read or our
own spiritual meditations. The prophet's message is not a private opinion
on politics or culture. No - it's God revealed word.
That's why it's so important for us to be steeped in the Bible and learn
that Word. The Bible is a foreign land to most Christians. But we should
read it every day. As a living word, God speaks to us through it. We
should be able to speak from it - a word to our world today.
The second point:
The prophet is always sent on a difficult mission. It's usually painful.
You're rebuked. God says to Ezekiel, "Hard of face and obstinate of heart
are they to whom I'm sending you." When Jesus, a prophet, came to his
hometown they said: "Who do you think you are, telling us?"
The point: expect opposition. The prophetic word is not an easy one to
deliver. It's a way of correcting someone, and we've all had the
experience of correcting someone and seeing that person harden their
heart. If you flatter your audience they'll come out in droves.
When you speak the prophetic word, expect hot water. To whom were
Ezekiel and Christ sent? Their own people, Israel, God's chosen people.
To whom are we sent? To our own house - the people who make up the
Church. Maybe we should be saying to those 75% of Christians who have
fallen away from the practice of their faith, isn't it time to return? That
takes courage. It's easier to avoid it. But the baptized - called to do what
Christ did - must act. And, maybe, just maybe, God wants to bring
someone back into the Church and he's chosen you to be his
Finally, as prophets we're called to be faithful - not successful.
God says to Ezekiel, "Whether they heed or resist - for they're a
rebellious house - they shall know that a prophet has been among them."
As prophets we can't measure success by numbers. Our job is to speak
the truth, whether people like us or not. We should speak, courageously
and truthfully, so that people know that "there's a prophet here."
Perhaps, only years later, will they act on the word you've spoken to
Pray to the prophets. These 17. And Jesus, the greatest.
Then speak the truth.