Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sunday 4B: "A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you": Jesus Christ speaks in His Church as prophet for the salvation of the world

"A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin."

I don't know about prophets, but from my "kin" God has raised up some of my best critics. Let me tell you what I mean. I have a sibling, name withheld to protect the innocent, who is very good at detecting when I am not listening to her. Sometimes she will stop talking in mid-sentence in order to call me to account, or tell me that she will stop talking to me until I decide to be present to her and truly listen willingly to her, forcing me to examine my behavior. I sometimes don't react well to her honesty, and get irritated sometimes that she forces me to look with such clarity at myself and the ways in which I need to work harder at being "present" to her and others.

Perhaps you have such honest people in your life, too. And though they sometimes get under your skin, in your more reflective moments you probably, as I often do, give thanks for such people who demand your best self. And as I do, you are probably thankful that they speak in truth and love. And because of this, they have "authority", we trust them to tell us what we really need to hear, to help us see ourselves as we really are. Because of such persons we are able to gain the hope that comes from knowing what we must change about ourselves to be real, to be whole, to be good.

Now, as for raising up prophets from among our "kin": it turns out that God in fact does this. A prophet is not someone who, in the first case, predicts the future like a soothsayer or a fortune teller but, in fact, is someone who is willing even to sacrifice himself in order to speak the harsh truth to those to whom he is sent. So, it turns out the sibling I described is, in fact, a prophet: he or she stands as a mirror before others in unflinching honesty to speak the truth that the other needs to hear without regard for self.

God has sent prophets to speak the truth for Him before the people throughout salvation history just as we hear in our first reading. God promises He will provide such truth tellers in order to serve the good of the people. And these prophets did irritate and sometimes anger the people as sometimes do those who do us the service of speaking the truth in our own lives. At times this anger reaches such a crescendo that it results in the death of the prophet.

"Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them." (CCC 783)

Christ is the "prophet" God has raised up to speak in the Church until the end of world. And He is sometimes attacked just as He was when He died on the Cross. Those who are sent today by Him are the Holy Father in Rome and the bishops who speak the truth with His voice to the great and the small, to the powerful and the little ones of the earth as He promised: "Go, and teach all nations" and "I give you the Holy Spirit to lead you into all the truth". And for this gift the bishops and the Church sometimes earn the hatred and vituperation of the world.

The Lord's role of prophecy, of speaking the inconvenient and unwanted truth, is being carried out right here and now by our bishops who decry and vow to fight the latest attacks by our government upon our God-given right to religious freedom. I urge you to read Cardinal Wuerl's letter in which he, as a prophet of God, stands before the Church and the world to proclaim the truth that "There can no longer be any doubt that religious liberty in our country is in jeopardy."

Let us listen to the voice of Christ who speaks here and now through the Church shedding the harsh glare of honesty born of love with His Divine authority to save us from sin. We go forward to share His voice by speaking the truth in union with our bishop and the Holy Father, sharers in the prophetic mission of the Church for the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ.

"What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."

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