The one who speaks prophetically to a culture is rarely subtle, and almost never popular. Not for them the parable, whose message is aimed in (appropriately) a parabolic arc behind the audience’s defence line; there to stage a sneak attack of truth, for those with ears to hear.
No, a prophetic judgment is more akin to a straight-out, all guns blazing, attack on the main defence line. It is resisted fiercely, and often successfully. There are exceptions, but the rule is that this kind of prophetic word is rejected by the recipient/s, up to and often after its fulfillment.
So, why bother? Two reasons. Firstly, truth must be proclaimed, however unpalatable, and warning given – whether heard or not. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the other part of this kind of prophetic word.
While the enemy is being fast engaged and the battle raging, behind comes a second team. That team is charged with planting a garden in the midst of the battle. Where it rages the strongest: a flower here, a plant there. To leave something behind in the resisters’ heart – the hope of something better. That when their plans have come to nothing, and all has fallen to ash – the memory, the hope remains – that all is not lost.
A prophet is called upon to pass the judgment of God – but that is only really the starting point. Beyond that, a prophet’s true mission, once all things have been revealed for what they really are, is to bring the message of hope. That beyond the battlegrounds and desolations of the human heart lies a garden of Hope that is tended by the Carer of our souls.
Postscript – a little more on the exercise of the prophetic in the Church.