Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B- Reflections by Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 18:15-20; Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9; 1 Cor 7:32-35 and Mark 1:21-28
Call to be Prophets
I have a huge book sitting there in my Library, titled Great Speeches of our times, by Hywel Williams. It contains the speeches of Politicians and Human Right Activists betweem 1945 -2008. It includes speeches of Eamon de Valera (May 16, 1945), Eleanor Roosevelt (December 9, 1948), J. F. Kennedy (July 15, 1960, January 20, 1961), and Charles de Gaulle (Feb 15, 1963), Martin Luther King, Jr (August 28, 1963), Nelson Mandela (April 20, 1964), Julius Nyerere (April 10, 1967), Ronald Reagan (June 6, 1984), Jesse Jackson (July 16, 1984), Margaret Thatcher (Sept 20, 1988), Mikhail Gorbachev (May 10, 1994), Fidel Castro (Jan 1, 1999), Tony Blair (Oct 2, 2001) and that of Barack Obama (March 18, 2008).
The speeches of the prophets, theologians and spiritual authors of our times like Pope John XXIII, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul the II and Pope Benedict the XVI are not included. Great speeches of Israel’s prophets are neither also not added prominently nor that of Moses.
The first reading of today Deut 18:15-20 is part of the part of the great speeches of Moses the Law giver to God’s people before his death, before Israel crosses into the Promise Land. It is a message of encouragement and attentive obedience (Deut 4–11) to God. It is a message of covenant renewal, an invitation to exclusive worship of God (12–26). It is a message that emphasis love, humanitarian concern and seeks to make Israel a just a balance society of responsible, courageous and visionary leadership and prophets.
This Speech of Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put up my words into his mouth, he shall tell them all that I command them” highlights the etiology for the establishment of the institution of the prophecy. It reminds us of the need for authentic prophets and the call to be attentive to the voices of authentic prophets in our society rather than of the false prophets.
Prophets are called and sent to be the mouth piece of God, God’s messengers. They preach with divine-spiritual authority about God not themselves. They are the conscience of the people. They preached and live the truth with conviction of divine blessings and protection. They may also challenge certain things and even the status quo that does not seems to be in the right direction. We saw this in Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel as well as in the 12 Minor Prophets from Hosea, Amos, and Joel to Malachi. Some preached, suffered and died for the truth they were convinced of.
The ministry of Jesus – his love, his compassion, his forgiveness of sins, his teaching with authority, the sermons on the mountains (Matt 1:1-12a) and on the plain land (Luke 6:20-23), his care for the poor and healing of the sick, feeding of the poor and the hungry, providing drinks and wine (Jn 2) even his road to the Cross are all seen as the ministry of the New Moses, the prophet of the New Covenant. Today in the synagogue in the “City of Nahum” Capernaum, teaching with authority, healing and casting out devils and the unclean spirit, free of charge and without advertisement (Mk 1:21-28), revealing the power of God over that of the devil.
When we read further Marks Gospel 3:14, we see where Jesus appointed the Twelve Apostles and gave them the power to do likewise, casting out the devils. Exorcism, prophetic preaching is an exercise of the spiritual authority entrusted to the Church by Jesus the new Moses, which enables us to freely fully dedicate ourselves to the service of the Lord or as Paul will put it today’ anxious about the things of the Lord that we may be holy,” (I Cor 7:32-35).
Remember at Baptism when we were anointed with the oil of the sacred chrism, which the Bishop blesses on Holy Thursday, we and our children were vested into the three fold offices of Jesus, that of a priest, that of a prophet and that of a king. The following prayer is said: “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin, given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into hi holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”
By implications we are call to be prophets in our own ways and capacities in our homes and families in our world of today. We know it is not all that we see and hear in the media today are true about Christ, the church and the values that makes us God’s children. Many are false. This is what Moses wanted to avoid. This is what Christ came to rewrite and this is what Paul warned the Church in Corinth against. We want to be a new Moses of our time, home and neighborhood. We want to be another Christ by the way we treat one another, speak the truth and embrace with courage our faith in the face of the challenges of our times.
Let us pray at this Mass that we may be nourished by the prophetic spirit of truth, love and justice after the image of Christ Jesus.
Peace be with you!