We are hearing from a different prophet every week at Sunday Mass. This week it is Ezekiel 2:2-5: As the Lord spoke to me, the spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard the one who was speaking say to me: Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have revolted against me to this very day. Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist—for they are a rebellious house—they shall know that a prophet has been among them.
When we reflect on prophets, they are like sandpaper. They tend to be so abrasive to our senses. Then I realized that when we are baptized, we are baptized as priests, prophets and kings (or queens)! We are abrasive without Jesus.
In the summer of 1925, a sandpaper salesman for the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company would do his sales pitch at auto-body shops. After Dick Drew made his pitch he would sit in the back of the shop and watch the men work He soon noticed that all the mechanics shared the same problem. (This story comes from a book: IMAGINE: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston 2012, pp 25-27)
It occurred when the mechanics were applying two-toned paint to a car. The workers would begin by painting everything black. Then they would protect this new coat of paint with taped-on sheets of butcher paper and carefully apply the second shade—usually a sleep like of white or red. Once the paint dried, the paper was removed. Here is where the process failed: the paper was usually attached to the metal with a strong adhesive, which meant that removing the paper and tape often peeled away the newly applied black paint. And so the frustrated workers would begin on that section again, their labor undone.
When Drew got back to the office after this realization, he began exploring his new idea. The first thing he discovered was that the glue used in sandpaper was also too strong—it ripped the wet paint right off. And so he began experimenting with the adhesive recipe, trying to make the rubber resin a little less sticky. This took him several months. He then had to find the right backing. Most adhesives were applied to woven fabrics, but Drew’s experience as a sandpaper salesman led him to focus on a backing of paper. Unfortunately, he couldn’t think of a way to store the sticky sheets; they kept sticking together, forming a crumpled stack. After two months of struggle, Drew was ordered by his boss to stop working on the project.
But Drew refused to give up. Although he was stumped, he still stayed past closing time at work, testing out different varieties of backing and recipes for glue. And then, late one night in his office, everything changed… Drew grasped the solution to his sticky problem. The idea was simple: Instead of applying the adhesive to square sheets of paper that needed to be stacked, it could be applied to a thin strip of paper that was then rolled up, like a spool of ribbon. The mechanics could unwind the necessary amount of sticky paper and attach it directly to the car, allowing them to paint without tack or glue. Drew called it masking tape.
Nobody knows where this revelation came from.
In retrospect, the idea for a roll of tape seems incredibly obvious; t’s hard to imagine a world where stickiness is limited to glue and tack and sticky sheets. Sure enough, the product was an instant hit in the marketplace, and not only among car mechanics. By 1928, Drew’s company was selling more masking tape than sandpaper. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company is now called 3M.
The problem with us prophets is that too often we are abrasive when we share the Good News of Jesus the Christ. We need to realize that we are simply “masking tape” and nothing more. St. Paul speaks of the thorn in the flesh that God gifted him with. The thorn is to prevent him from becoming prideful. So often in ministry, we get full of ourselves when we falsely believe we have been the catalyst of bringing someone to Christ. Saint Paul reminds us that it is in our weakness that we are strong. We are all merely only masking tape. Once we do our work, we are to be thrown away.
If we are honest with ourselves, we tend to be like glue that rips off part of people. Before we talk to Jesus about a person, we need to talk to Jesus about that person. I always say, “Jesus, give me the words to say to so and so, but if I need to keep my big mouth shut, please shut it!”
A good sign that we are doing God’s work is that we will suffer persecution, ridicule, insults and the like. The real temptation of Satan is that we think we are doing God’s work without the persecution. So where is my (or your) persecution.
Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was rejected by his own country, church and family. How could we possibly expect anything different for ourselves? Many are called, but few are chosen. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.
Jesus said that:
A prophet is without honor except in his/her native place (country)
And among own kin (church)
or own house (family).
And yet God has anointed us all with the Spirit of God. The spirit is like a glue that does not rip off the paint of another person. Our anointing is like masking tape. We use the sticky stuff of love, joy and peace…patience, kindness and gentleness….generosity, self-control and patience.
I hope we can al realize that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We are merely like masking tape to be thrown out after we do our job. However, the really Good News is that God will raise us up out of love!
May your week be blessed as you explore your understanding of being God’s prophet…and all the persecution and weakness that goes with it.
Love, joy, peace,