Year C- 4th Sunday in ordinary time
No prophet is accepted in his own countryLuke 4:21-30
21 Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
Author: Joseph of Jesus and Mary
Prophets are those who speak for God. They Love God, and they love his people, and speak the very true (and often painful) truth of God to his people. They do so not to win an argument, but because of their love and conviction that only the undiluted truth of God can save us in the end.
People-pleasing and other forms of human respect cannot supplant the reverence for God and His truth. Thus Prophets are willing to endure pain and suffering to proclaim Gods truth to an often unappreciative segment of Gods people. But out of love for God and his people, they press on to proclaim his truth, and they do so willingly, knowing that even death awaits their personal, persistent and prophetic proclamation.
Todays readings set for us a kind of rule for life for prophets. And we, who are baptized into the order of prophet, do well to hear the teachings of these readings, Let us examine them in three stages.
I. The Call that is Declared The text says: In the first reading God says to Jeremiah (and to us): The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. But do you gird your loins; stand up and tell them all that I command you.
We ought to note four things about our call as prophets.
1. The Prevenient nature of our Call- The word prevenient refers to something which comes before; which precedes, something that is expectant or anticipatory. And thus God has not chosen us in a whimsical way, as if to say, youll do. He has considered our call before He made us and equipped, empowered and enabled us for our work.
God tells Jeremiah and us, that he has known, loved and cherished us long before He ever made us. And thus he made us in a way that prepared and equipped us of the very work of being a prophet.
How? you say. That is as variable as the person you are. There is no one who can proclaim God or announce the kingdom like you can. Perhaps too he has especially equipped you to evangelize certain individuals no one else can reach. Just know this, God has thought a long time about you and prepared for you in very specific and thoughtful ways. What ever you have needed has come before is prevenient.
2. The Purview of our Call -The text tells Jeremiah (and us) that we are appointed unto the nations. Now, Jeremiah did not himself, in his own life, journey beyond Israel. But since his life, the Word of the Lord uttered through him, has reached every nation.
Never doubt the influence you can exert by the grace of God. Even in and through reaching one person you can change the destiny of many. Stay in your lane and do your work, but remember God can accomplish through you more than you ask or imagine. Your influence by his grace can reach the nations.
3. The Preparation of our Call -The Lord tells Jeremiah (and us) to gird our loins. This is an ancient way of saying roll up your sleeves. In other words, prepare to work by assembling what you need and being ready to exert effort.
Surely for us this means daily prayer, weekly Eucharist and frequent confession. It means prayerfully reading Gods reading and the teaching of the Church and it means keeping fellowship with the Church, and with fellow believers. All of this equips, empowers and enables us for the work of being a prophet which God has called us to do.
Beyond this there may be other specific gifts God calls us to develop, be it music, learning a second language, growing in the gift of healing, preaching, or administration. What it may be, God will show you and help you to grow the gifts and talents you have received.
In all this you roll up your sleeves for the work God has given and is preparing you for so that you will be an evermore effective prophet.
4. The Prescription of our Call -The text says, tell them all that I command you. In other words, leave nothing out, proclaim the whole counsel of God. Dont just proclaim what appeals to you or jives with you politics and worldview, dont just say what is popular or in sync with currently worldly thinking. Tell them the whole message, in season or out of season.
II. The Courage that is demanded The text says Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them; for it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass, against the whole land: against Judahs kings and princes, against its priests and people.
And here note three qualities of a prophet:
Strength - A prophet needs to be strong, for people are stubborn and unwilling to easily change. Indeed, we are collectively a stiff-necked people, we have a neck of iron and forehead of brass. We are thick-headed, willful and obdurate. A prophet has to be willing to endure a lot to move the ball even a few inches. If you dont think were a hard case, look at the cross and see what it took to save us (you). Prophets need strength and persistence.
Support- The prophet (Jeremiah and us) is called a pillar of iron. That is, we are to lend support to a crumbling nation and culture. Whether our culture likes to admit it or not, it is crumbling and collapsing, If it stands any chance at all, it is only that we are willing to be a pillar of iron calling this culture back to modesty, decency, chastity, self control, maturity, obedience to God and generosity to the poor. Otherwise, everything is destined for ruin.
Sadly the Church has often had to pick up the shattered pieces of fallen cultures, nations and eras that refused to repent. But this is what prophets must do, they must be pillars of iron when cultures go weak and soft, or crumble under the weight of pride, sin and un-repentance.
And failing that, we must become, by Gods grace the new foundation and pillar of what rises from the ashes. All of this takes great courage.
Sanctifier - Jeremiah is told that the priests, kings and princes have all been co-opted, and corrupted, and he must speak the truth to them all and summon them to repentance.
Here is the hardest work of the prophet, to call those who most benefit from the status quo, to change and repentance. This is not only hard because they are on top of the current system, but it is also hard because to one degree or another, they are owed respect and obedience as lawful superiors.
Navigating the balance between respect for authority and the summons of them to repentance is not easy and only God can really pull it off. Nevertheless speaking the truth to power is the unenviable lot of the prophet.
Well, fellow prophets this means you and me. I would only urge prayer here. Bishop-bashing and the usual fare of ridiculing political leaders is not the solution. Neither is quiet acquiescence when we are clear that those in authority need to hear a call from the Lord. Lots of prayer and a general tone of respect will surely lead the way. Clarity with charity, and light with love.
III. Conclusion - The text says, They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
In the end, the truth will out. The Light wins, He always wins. Every night gives way to day and the light scatters darkness. Darkness has its hour but truth has eternity. Good Friday only points to Easter Sunday, and death is cast off like a garment. In the end, every true prophet is on the winning team. While he may endure jail, laughter, ridicule. persecution, setbacks and trials, what every true prophet announces will come to pass. History bears this out and it will be definitively manifest at the Last Day. The darkness cannot prevail, it always gives place to the light.
The Conclusion for the prophet, for the Church, for the Gospel, for the Lord is total victory. It cannot be any other way, God has spoken it and He will do it.
Even if in a small way the Lord Jesus shows this in todays Gospel. The text says,
They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
Here is a preview of Easter, just when Satan is running his victory lap, the Lord casts off death and stands as light in the shadow of the Cross. Satan loses, Jesus wins. That is the conclusion.
So get on the winning team. Pay little heed to the current struggle, it cannot last or win. Jesus has already won.
21 And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?"
23 And he said to them, "Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Caper'na-um, do here also in your own country.'"
24 And he said, "Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country.
25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Eli'jah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land;
26 and Eli'jah was sent to none of them but only to Zar'ephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Eli'sha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Na'aman the Syrian."
28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.
29 And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.
30 But passing through the midst of them he went away.
Jesus confirmed that He is the Messiah.