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  • Christopher Looby

4th Sunday of Ordinary time C

Updated: Jan 30


Life wasn't easy for biblical prophets. Take Jeremiah from today's first reading. He'd been chosen in the womb to be prophet to the nations. Then God called Jeremiah to “stand up and tell them all that I command you.”

That would not make Jeremiah popular and God knows this. “Judah's Kings and princes, its priests and people, will fight against you but not prevail over you for I am with you to deliver you” says the Lord.

Jeremiah wasn't the only Prophet whom God entrusted with an uncomfortable message. In today's Gospel, Luke portrays Jesus in a prophetic role.

In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus announces that he has come to fulfill the promises God made to Israel in ages past. Jesus is aware that his message will meet resistance and that resistance comes almost immediately. The people in the synagogue are all filled with fury and drive Jesus out of town, intending to kill him. Jesus survives this first challenge, but many more are to come until he makes his final journey to Jerusalem to the cross.

The stories of Jeremiah and Jesus lead me to wonder about the state of prophecy today in our church. Being a prophet is still not easy. Prophecy is still a gift given by the spirit in our midst and discerning the legitimacy of a prophet is, of course not easy.

Recently, I saw on social media, a criterion to use to judge the legitimacy of a modern day prophet:

1. Do the would-be prophet statements measure up to Jesus in his gospel teachings and in his actions?

2. Do they call us to treat all justly and to respect God's creation?

3. and do they prioritize how we treat those on the margins of our society?

But here's a clue to authentic prophecy. Does the prophet get the same reaction that Jeremiah and Jesus received.

We hear prophetic voices from all parts of the church: from Pope Francis, from Bishops and other pastors, from theologians and from other voices in the church as well.

And some might be unexpected voices.

Last year in New York City , there was a terrible accident. A seventh-grade student died on a Friday afternoon in a pool accident. The following Monday when the class came back to school, as you can imagine, they were emotionally distraught. Some of the kids were crying. One of the children asked their teacher, Mrs. Rezario, “Do you think Johnny is in Heaven?”

And Mrs. Rezario said, “Of course he is. God loves every one of you. Look, I am going over to the corner here and if anyone wants to come over with me I will say a little prayer for Johnny. And those of you who don’t want to do that, go on and turn your computers on and we’ll be with you in a moment.”

Mrs. Rezario was fired the next day. No appeals. No second chances.

Mrs. Rezario committed the unpardonable sin in the eyes of the world. She told her children God loved them, and prayed with them.

We would point to other places in our culture to verify that the war is on and the culture seems to be winning. Doesn’t the image demand our attention?

The Church should be prophetic, an enclave of resistance, because it’s founder, Jesus, is the greatest of all prophets and he calls each of us and shares with us his ministry of prophecy.

The task of a prophet is to speak, and to live out, God’s truth especially when it clashes with our culture.

We must never be afraid of this call, for it is Jesus who will supply us with the courage, the words, and the deeds we will need to oppose the many evils in our society.

Let us pray that as a people who share in the prophetic ministry of Christ that our lives:

· measure up to Jesus in his gospel teachings and in his actions

· we treat all people justly

· we respect God's creation

· we treat those on the margins of our society with dignity and compassion.

And who cares if we are rejected even by those who are close to us. I didn’t bother Jesus, so, it shouldn’t bother us.

As God promised Jeremiah he also assures us: the world may “fight against you but not prevail over you for I am with you to deliver you”.

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