2022-01-30 - THE CHALLENGES OF A PROPHET. A reflection for the 4th Sunday of theOrdinary Time Year C Author: Rev. Fr. Donatus Okeke
Readings:1st: Jeremiah 1:4-5.17-19; 2nd: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Gospel: Luke 4:21-30
At baptism we receive the offices of priests, kings and prophets. As prophets, God calls us to proclaim his word to the entire world. A prophet is to explain God’s word and to state clearly the word of God. The major role of the prophet is not just predicting the future but telling the truth. In dispensing his assignment, the prophet will always have many people to contend with. He will face series of oppositions, challenges, rejection, humiliation, and others of such. Majority of us find it difficult to say the truth and we do not want to hear the truth. Our Church as well as our world, therefore need prophets. The Liturgy of today captures the difficulties faced by prophets in dispensing the truth. Jesus and Jeremiah are presented today as prophets who had to preach an unwelcome truth to the people.
The First Reading describes the call of Jeremiah. His prophetic ministry was confirmed before his birth. At the moment of his call, he was disposed of the difficulties that he will encounter as he proclaims the word of God.
Jesus in the Gospel is rejected by his own people. The Gospel of today is a continuation of the Gospel of last Sunday (Luke 4:14-21). After Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News in the synagogue, the people were amazed. However, they became uncomfortable as they listened to Jesus tell them the truth.
St. Paul in the Second Reading reminds us of the three cardinal virtues (gifts) for the prophetic ministry, namely: faith, hope and love. The greatest of these is love. A prophet must dispense God's word (truth) with love. Thus, the Christian should be a prophet of love.
Implications / Lessons from the Readings*
A. A prophet transmits God’s word to the people and not what the people want to hear. As Jesus addressed the Jews in the synagogue, they were all amazed and spoke well about him. But, when he started telling them the truth, they were enraged. The Jews believed that they were the chosen race, so, for Jesus to tell them the stories of Elijah and Elisha going outside the Jewish territory to work wonders was unpleasant to them. They did not want to hear this. Ministers in the Church (in fact every Christian) must learn from Jesus. We must act and say what we know to be the truth, at all cost. Majority of us act like the Jews in the Gospel. We only want to listen to praises. We challenge or oppose the truth. Some of us do hate or make mess of those who correct us. We must listen to the Gospel with openness of mind.
B. From the call of Jeremiah, we note the following citations, that will help us to understand the prophectic ministry.
i. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.... I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
ii. "...say to them everything that I commanded you.
iii. "They will fight against you..."
iv. "...but, they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, to deliver you."
Our call is not by accident. God has the knowledge of us individually. He has a unique call for us. This call is solely God’s initiative and not ours. It is his mission and it is his message. All we need to do is to respond. Also, he makes it clear that there must be challenges in this task. He will always make a way for us on how to overcome these challenges.
C. One of the challenges of the prophet as pointed out in the readings is rejection. This can be as a result of familiarity. Jeremiah was persecuted and rejected by his own people. Instead of reflecting on Jesus’ words, the people were interested in his family background. Thus, Jesus felt neglected and rejected. Like Jesus and Jeremiah, we must not allow rejection, insults or discrimination to reduce our morale of saying the truth. We must equally learn not to neglect people. Let us concentrate on the message and not the messenger.
Beloved in Christ, as prophets, courage is a necessity for all Christians. Both Jesus and Jeremiah spoke with courage. When we are mocked, or our lives threatened, can we stand up for what we profess? When our personal interest is involved, can we still condemn evil? As listeners of the word of God, are we able to listen and accept the truth when corrected? We must show loyalty to the truth, even when it is unfavorable.
May God help us.