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(Part 149)


January 31, 2016

Today’s readings:
Jeremiah 1:4-19
Psalm 71:1-17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30

All authentic disciples of Jesus are called to participate in the priestly, kingly and prophetic mission of Jesus. As prophets in a general sense, they are witnesses to Christ, by their holy lives and bold proclamation of the gospel. There are also those who are called to a specific prophetic ministry, those who are gifted with the charismatic gift of being a prophet, which gift is second only to being an apostle (see 1 Cor 12:28).

Such prophets are those who speak God’s truth to His people, as a way of showing them God’s way and/or bringing them back from veering away from God’s way. In showing the people God’s way, prophets often point to a radical way of living Christ, that of self-denial, sacrifice, embrace of the cross. In bringing people back to God’s way, they speak straightforwardly about people’s sin, turning away from God, hard-heartedness and even rebellion. As such, you can see that prophets are not very popular. Prophets are called, appointed and sent by God “to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.” (Jr 1:10).

Jeremiah was warned by God that “Judah’s kings and princes, its priests and the people of the land ... will fight against you” (Jr 1:19a). Later in his life, Jeremiah was forced into Egyptian exile. Then there is Jesus himself, the greatest of prophets (of course he is more than a prophet as he is God), who said, “no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” (Lk 4:24). When he spoke of how God had favored the gentiles rather than Israel (Lk 4:25-27), “the people in the synagogue .... were all filled with fury.” (Lk 4:28). They rose up against Jesus and tried to throw him down the hill (Lk 4:29).

Prophets are opposed because they challenge the status quo, they confront people with their transgressions, they show them the authentic Christian life that is opposed to their seeking comfort and convenience, power and position, personal acclaim. They disturb people who do not want to be disturbed. They challenge people to give more and more of themselves, when these people have already settled into their comfortable “Christian” lives. As such, the lot of prophets is to be maligned, opposed, ridiculed, ostracized, oppressed, persecuted. “I have become a portent to many, .... my enemies speak against me; they watch and plot against me.” (Ps 71:7a,10).

Some give up. Authentic prophets do not. They simply trust in God. “In you, Lord, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue and deliver me; listen to me and save me!” (Ps 71:1-2). They put their hope not in human beings but only in Him. “You are my hope, Lord” (Ps 71:5a). Such trust and hope in the God who sends His prophet is well founded. “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you” (Jr 1:8).

The authentic prophet acts out of love for God, love for His people and love for the mission of the Church. He understands that he has been called and given a gift but that the gift is to be exercised in love (1 Cor 13:2). Looking at just some of the characteristics of love (1 Cor 13:4-7), the prophet has to be patient (v.4), as it will take quite a bit of time, effort and energy to get people along the truly right path. The prophet “does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.” (v.6). He does not practice false mercy, but speaks the truth of God’s word, not wanting anyone to remain in sin. The prophet “bears all things, .... endures all things.” (v.7). As has been seen in the lives of the Old Testament prophets, as well as modern-day prophets, and certainly in the life of Jesus, there will be a great deal of trials and opposition and persecution.

In the end, the prophet may “fail” in bringing people back to God and the narrow path of holiness and the cross. “If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing” (1 Cor 13:8b). But “love never fails.” (1 Cor 13:8a).

The prophet simply obeys God’s call, no matter what. “I will speak of the mighty works of the Lord; O God, I will tell of your singular justice.” (Ps 71:16).

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