4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Called to be Prophets
In the First Reading, we heard of God’s promise to Moses that He would raise up for us a prophet. This is only one of God’s many promises that were made and are found in the Old Testament, each of them having been fulfilled through Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament.
The word “prophet” literally means “one who speaks on behalf of another.” Applied to the biblical prophets, it means “one authorized to speak on behalf of God.” Thus when Isaiah spoke, he could claim divine authority for his words. He was literally acting as God’s spokesman. That’s why his words had to be 100%. As long as he spoke only for himself, he could make any number of mistakes. But when he claimed to speak for God, he had no margin for error.
A biblical prophet had two primary functions:
- He delivered God’s message to his own generation.
- He predicted the course of future events.
In the first role, the prophet upheld God’s righteousness and condemned injustice of every variety.
The prophets often dealt with social issues, and condemned men on these grounds. They dealt with problems of immorality and revealed the standards of God’s holiness. They dealt with the problems of drunkenness and condemned the overuse of wine. They condemned the oppression of the poor, the fatherless and the widow. They condemned unjust extortion and interest rates, and taxation where it was not due. They condemned greed and avarice. They condemned businessmen for using false weights and improper balances. Because of the bold denunciation of sin, the prophets were often very unpopular. Many were hated and persecuted and some were put to death (Matthew 23:34).
In the second role, the prophets predicted the rise and fall of nations, the outcome of military battles, and the coming judgment of God on disobedient kings. Sometimes their predictions were immediately fulfilled, but often centuries would pass before the predicted events would occur. But in every case, the prophets were held to the strict standard of 100% accuracy.
A Prophet Like Moses
Moses was the first and greatest of all the Old Testament prophets since he spoke with God face to face and because he was the man God used to work the great miracles in Egypt and in the wilderness. No other prophet after his time would approach his greatness (Deuteronomy 34:10-12). Other notable men would arise: Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi, to name only a few. These men ably fulfilled the twin roles of denouncing sin and predicting future events.
Jesus the Prophet
The prophecy of Deuteronomy 18 specifically speaks of a prophet who will have four characteristics:
- He is raised up by God (meaning that he has a divine calling)
- He will be like Moses (thus having intimate knowledge of God)
- He will be from among the people (an Israelite)
- He will speak with divine authority (as a result of the preceding factors)
This prophecy has been fulfilled in Jesus. When he performed the miracle of feeding the 5000 in John 6, the crowd responded by saying, “Surely this the Prophet who is to come into the world” (v. 14). Again, the reference is to Deuteronomy 18. Later when he spoke to the multitudes at the Feast of Tabernacles, some of the people exclaimed, “Surely this man is the Prophet” (John 7:40).
We are called to be prophets
It’s an awesome responsibility. It’s a responsibility we took on when we received our salvation in Christ at Baptism. And frankly, it’s a responsibility that many, if not most, modern day Christians ignore. It’s not hard to imagine why. The modern world has rejected Christianity. We’re living in a post-Christian World. And increasingly, we’re living in a world and a country that not only doesn’t want to hear about God, we’re living in a world that wants to silence religion in the public sphere. The world is telling us to keep our religion to ourselves. We can believe whatever we want on Sunday morning but as soon as Monday rolls around the world wants us to set our religiously informed convictions aside.
But take comfort. Take comfort because the world has forever and ever, rejected the Prophets who dare to speak the truth which God has planted in their hearts. But proclaim the message which God has given us we must, even when we are rejected. And what is our message? What is the message that God has given to us to proclaim? It’s the most powerful message that he ever asked anyone to proclaim. The message is the Good News – the Gospel. And the Gospel is and always has been Jesus Christ, in whom we find our salvation. For those who turn to him, repenting of their sins, God forgives them, and offers them new life in his son Jesus, and he makes us his children by adoption, forgiving us our trespasses. And this salvation has been the plan of God all along – it is the mystery which was hidden in ages past but has been revealed to us in Jesus: that God wants us to dwell with him forever in eternal life. God calls you and me to be prophets and heralds of this Good News.
Let us pray that the good Lord will give us the courage to be his prophets in this modern world. Amen
Fr A Francis HGN