Homily (2) Fourth Sunday of Year B: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Deut 18:15-20; Ps 95:1-2, 6-9; 1 Cor 7:32-35 and Mk 1:21-28
A True prophet is “a Prophet Like” Moses
There is a book in my Library, Great Speeches of our times, by Hywel Williams. This book contains speeches of Politicians and Human Rights Activists such as; Eamon de Valera, Eleanor Roosevelt, J. F. Kennedy , and Charles de Gaulle; Martin Luther King, Jr , Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Ronald Reagan, Jesse Jackson, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Fidel Castro (Jan 1, 1999), Tony Blair and Barack Obama,-- our current president…
Speeches of the prophets, theologians and spiritual authors of our times, are not mentioned. The Bible readings of today, beginning with the first reading (Deut 18:15-20) reminds us these omitted speeches; the prophetic and reflective speeches of Moses; and Israel’s prophets (major and minor), their lives, their duties, their ministries, and the need for us to imitate them.
The prophet is one of us, a member of the community, a friend, chosen by the Lord to speak in the name of God (Deut 18:15). A true prophet is the mouth piece of God and a divine messenger. A true prophet preaches with divine and moral authority, about God, not about him or herself. A true prophet is the conscience of the people. A true prophet is not selfish, but sensitive to the evil and opt for the poor, the widow, the oppressed and those in the margins of society. A true prophet cherishes the highest good and lives the truth with love, faith and hope for the divine blessings.
In matters of faith the true prophet is not a coward. He challenges every unjust status quo and seeks for a just and peaceful alternative. True prophets offer symbols and hope that are adequate to confront the horror and massiveness of the experience that evokes indifference. The prophet is the one who brings to public expression those very fears and terrors that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we do know they are there. The prophet speaks metaphorically but concretely the truth of everyday life, that hovers over us. The prophet speaks neither in rage, nor with cheap grace, but with the candor born of anguish, passion, sympathy, empathy and compassion. In doing this the prophet free people from all types of slaveries, especially modern slaveries, and sins, mentioned by Father, Pope Francis in his 2015 New Year Message. Authentic prophets bring people, men, women and children to God.
The biblical Moses, of the Exodus, is an example of a true prophet. Though he suffered, he endured. He challenged Pharaoh, and dismantled the politics of oppression and exploitation, by countering it with a politics of justice, true freedom, compassion and humanitarianism. Let my people go! Moses is a paradigm of all prophets. Speaking today in the first reading, he says, “The Lord will raise a Prophet like Me from among your kindred, to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:19-20). This prophet would come to be Christ.
But, in every nations, lands, villages, communities, times and places, even here in our Seminary Community, God is always raising prophets to speak to us in his name. Think of our parents, our Church Leaders, Popes, Saints, our teachers, professors, spiritual directors, the staff, spouses, and good friends, students, fellow parishioners around us, and models of Christian virtues. Through these “prophets” we become better people each day, and strive to do the will of God!
In the second reading (1 Cor 7:32-35), Paul was also prophetic to the Corinthian community. Like Moses, Paul challenges the common but wrong practices of his time: factions, rivalries, abuse of marriages and our sexualities. Paul offers an alternative. If you are married, good! If you are unmarried, like him, good, be faithful to your vows of celibacy, for the sake of the kingdom of God.
Christ, in the Gospel (Mark 1:21–28), no doubt, is the prophet par excellence! And his prophecy is the norm for our lives. His birth challenges Herod and the powers that be! He introduces a new prophecy. He dismantles the proud and raises the lowly. He reaches to the poor, the Samaritan woman, the “Matthews,” the “tax collectors”, the “Mary Magdalene”, the “Zacchaeus”, the “Lazarus”, the “lepers” and the blinds, forbidden in the past.
Today he shocks the Pharisees and everybody in the synagogue of Capernaum, by preaching, healing, and liberating authoritatively on the Sabbath (Mark 1:21ff), against the status quo. For the status quo, the Sabbath was the sacred sign of social settlement. For Christ, the new Moses, the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. For Christ, the Sabbath must be a Sabbath for love, a Sabbath for healing, exorcisms, peace and forgiveness.
Jesus’ prophetic ministry is that of freedom from falsehood, deceit, false gods, intimidation, exploitation, immoralities, and deceitful practices. The ministry of Christ, the new Moses, also entails, unity, faith and hope. It requires empathy, sympathy, compassion and justice. Therefore, Christ invites us today, wherever we are located, to participate in his prophetic ministry, beyond the shore of Galilee, in our homes, offices, class rooms, parishes, dioceses, to the ends of the earth, and to our innermost selves.