The Prophet And The Word

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B.
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 – 1Corinthians 7:32-35 – Mark 1:21-28.

It is asserted in the 1st reading that “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself from among yourselves” (v. 15). The Gospel goes on to declare that “Here is a teaching that is new… and with authority behind it: He [Jesus] gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey Him” (v. 27). These words of God highlight the culmination of the Mosaic prophetic ministry in Jesus, the Word of God Himself.

In the 1st reading we find Moses reassuring the People of God that the Lord will send them a prophet who will guide them in accordance with God’s word. Remember that the people of Israel trembled at the theophany (the sight of God’s glory [Ex.19:16; 20:18f]), and that when God wanted them to hear what He was saying to Moses, they promised to do whatever the Lord commanded (Ex 19:8). Moses, knowing that He wouldn’t live forever, reassured the people that God would raise up a prophet from among them who would be ‘like him’ (vv. 15, 18), like Moses – a New Moses, One in whom is the wholeness of the Word of God, One whose ministry will touch lives, whose words will be real, whose words will be full of power to heal, convert and expel the devil. When we see in the gospels what Jesus actually taught and did, it is utterly amazing because He is unambiguously the Prophet. There is no prophet to match Him. He taught with divine authority and has the power and authority to exorcise and to forgive sins. Only God can do all this!

Though He is ascended, Our Lord has promised that He will never leave us (Heb 13:5). Since Jesus’ earthly ministry in physical terms is over (Jn 16:16), as is that of Moses, what is the future of the prophetic ministry? Remember that the word of God remains forever (Mt 24:35; 1Pet 1:25). The word for today tells us that, “I will raise up for you a prophet…”. So, even in our own time, God is raising up prophets to guide His people by His word. You don’t have to look far for these prophets… you can begin by looking inwards. You yourself are called to contribute to the spread of the Good News. Ask yourself: to what degree am I living out authentically the life of the gospel?

When Jesus, the Word of God, spoke with divine authority, there was no mistaking that He spoke authentically. There was no distinction between what He said and what He did. He wasn’t quoting words of Scripture and then going against them, doing things contrarily as we do. The crowd that was fortunate enough to hear Him speak wasn’t captivated by His words solely because He was a gifted preacher. He was not guilty of being an orator who just told them what they wanted to hear. When He spoke, the ring of truth in every word was unmistakable. Jesus used His authority to attract people to God, including the man who was possessed by an unclean spirit.

Think about it: the most fundamental criticism we can make of any person is to say that ‘they are not one with their word’, that their actions belie their words. Every age has its true and false prophets. In the 1st reading, we see a critique of those whose claim to holiness is bogus. We need to reflect seriously on that and to ask ourselves whether or not our claim to be living out the Christian life is credible, and whether or not we are equipped to champion the word of God in our time. How honestly and authentically can we live out the Christian message in word and deed (1Jn 3:18) in the context of the secular world? The world (which is the territory of the Prince of Lies) will always throw questions at us that attack the Faith, but our answers – provided that they are filled with the Word of God – will go a long way towards setting it back on the right path and keeping the evil one at bay.

The prophetic mission is ongoing. Jesus, the Word of God, has given us Himself. With His words in the Scriptures, and with Him in us by the power of the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments, we have been tasked with the mission to evangelize the world with authority and to expel the evil infesting peoples’ lives.

Dedication and Devotion to this ministry: In the 2nd reading, St Paul mentions the need for us to be devoted to God’s affairs. Sometimes we allow ourselves to be distracted by the affairs of the world, by the things we feel we can’t give up, by our sins and weaknesses, all of which cause us to soft-pedal instead of accelerating ahead with living out the prophetic and evangelical ministry to which we are called.

Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth, and it has been left to us to work towards its completion. Progress will be slowed whenever we fail in our duty to love and to teach and preach God’s word. Worse, each one of us knows from bitter experience that progress stalls whenever we go off and ‘do our own thing’, when we become less than dedicated to God’s affairs and shove them on the back burner.

Prayer: Lord, help me to carry out the prophetic mission with which You have entrusted me. Help me to realize how powerful you have made me, so that I too may contribute to diminishing and vanquishing the reign of evil and the evil one. May Your Kingdom come (Mt 24:14). Amen. God bless you.