4th Sunday in Ordinary Time; Readings: Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71, Response: I will sing of your salvation; 1 Corinthians 13: 4-13; Luke 4: 21-30
The basic definition of a prophet is one who is inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to deliver a message. Divinely inspired messages form the basis of faith of Christianity, as they come to their final and complete revelation in Christ.
As Fr. Randy Sachs, S.J., put it: In Christ, God said everything He wanted to say and reveal to us, and the final and definite message and revelation is the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
The prophetic voice plays an important role in the community. The voice was, still is, the spiritual and moral compass that helped keep the community focused on God’s plan. This also kept the community together.
The Prophet Malachi was the last prophetic voice in the Old Testament. It was close to 500 years before John the Baptist, the last and greatest prophet, appeared to announce the coming of the Messiah.
One could surmise that the context of Christ’s appearance was a rather tumultuous time. After half a millennium of silence, there was much division and confusion, as several factions would claim the correct interpretation of scripture and the right to lead.
Distorted religious practices
It was in this context that distorted religious practices developed, which John the Baptist, and later on Christ himself, would condemn. It was in this context that today’s Gospel episode describes to us the first public appearance of Christ.
Take note of the effect of Christ’s message. When he proclaims that the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in him, the people “all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
A few minutes (or seconds) later, “the people in the synagogue heard this (another message of Christ), they were all filled with fury. 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.”
Aha! The Jekyll and Hyde faith kicks in—the original and ancient balimbing. The triggers? Two of them, bias and the truth, or, more to the point, being confronted by the truth.
The bias was Christ being one of them. “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” Christ responds with, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.” So, the plot thickens.
Sensing their bias, Christ further confronts them with the truth and tells them how their forefathers acted in the same way, and in the process praises the gentiles, the non-Jews, for accepting God’s word and will with an authentic heart and spirit.
The prophetic voice leads us to a deeper awareness as individuals and as communities. It first reveals our biases, what Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., taught us in Philosophy as our “mitzumachung,” which we need to set aside or “bracket” to allow the truth to reveal itself.
Prophetic voices help us to be authentic. There will be resistance and even violent reactions, but these will not change the incontrovertible truth their message proclaims. We cannot change the truth. It will change us.
There are two other points in our readings for this Sunday that further define the qualities of prophetic voices.
St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Corinthians: “For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Love is the perfection of the truth, our perfect relationship with the truth that makes us most authentic as loving persons. The final and definitive message is, “Love one another as I have loved you”—on the Cross and in the Resurrection.
In the final point of the Gospel, we see Christ simply walking through the angry crowd that pressed him toward the brow of the hill with the desire to hurl him down. The perfect epilogue line is, “Because his time has not yet come.”
The second quality of the truth proclaimed by prophetic voices is that it has its own rhythm, God’s Kairos. No matter what we do to thwart, suppress or destroy the truth, it will emerge and prevail.
In the first reading during the midnight Mass for Christmas, we read from the Prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9: 1)
The final and definitive prophetic voice is Christ, the great light that shines on us and brings us joy, peace, faith, hope and love. Our lives lived as such help build a world, our society, as one of joy, peace, faith, hope and love. –CONTRIBUTED