Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI

Theme: Vocation to be a Prophet


First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
The Prophet God Will Raise up for His People.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
A Song of Praise

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Heavy Concerns of the Married than of the Unmarried

Gospel Reading: Mark 1:21-28
Jesus the Prophet Who Spoke and Acted with Authority

Background on the Readings and the Homily

What was the literary setting of today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy? The people of God had traversed the Arabian Desert and reached Mount Nebo (in present Jordan) from where the Promised Land appeared in the horizon nearby. Moses was reaching the end of his life. He had no permission from God to enter. Then, Moses had to prepare the people to live without him. He was the most powerful leader the people ever knew during the sojourn, and his impending death puts his flock in jeopardy. Death being imminent, in today’s first reading, we heard Moses giving his Farewell Discourse. A part of his encouragement to people was a promise he made; namely, that God would raise up a prophet for them from among them. Who was this prophet? It is a collective singular. So, it is the basically the whole people led by God’s spirit. God’s prophetic people were going to be different from their pagan counterparts who were involved in sorcery, witchcraft, divination, demon worship, placating of their deities and giving false prophecies for their personal gain and popularity. On the contrary, the Israelite prophets were not just one individual, but a succession of prophets who followed Moses’ spirit. They were to mediate God, His presence, words, and authority. The meaning of the Greek word prophãtãs is rich in meaning. It is made up of two components, namely, pro + phemi. Phãtãs is from the verb phemi, meaning ‘to speak.’ Pro was a preposition which had triple nuances of meaning. Firstly, it meant ‘on behalf of.’ A prophet spoke on God’s behalf. He was God’s mouthpiece. He announces God’s salvation and denounced divine judgment. The second meaning of the preposition pro had a temporal dimension. When does he speak? He speaks now for the contemporary situation. A prophet has fully immersed himself in people’s present situation. He is no mere foreteller. He does foretell, but always in relation to the present or the contemporary situation, i.e. he foretells people of the future consequences of their present actions. He went to the past or the origins to shed light on the present. Origins mean here their time of slavery in Egypt, wanderings through the desert, the covenant and occupation of the Promised Land which were the primordial events of their history and being. That history of God’s faithful became the measuring rod for people’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness to it and accordingly, they were liable to be bless or condemned by God. Prophets were called to perform religious and political functions in the community. A prophet not only speaks on behalf of God, but also acts authoritatively for him. The authority Moses exercised in leading them with wisdom and daring was an authority delegated to him by God for God. In their history, the problem was not to find a prophet (1 Kg 22:6), but to find a prophet who was speaking for God. 

In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus, the greatest prophet who ever lived, speaking and acting as a prophet. His hearers were astounded by the way and by what He spoke and acted. He always did so with daring and authority like and even more than the prophets of the OT, and that was because he was the Son of God who brought the Good News of salvation from the Father. Demons identified Him and hated His presence and actions. In accordance with God’s plan, Jesus had to be rejected, crucified, and killed because He spoke and acted as a prophet. Not many people will like being confronted by prophecy. Had Jesus become an ally of the sinful religious-political structures of His day, he would not have been submitted to this atrocious death. But that was the way by which He was destined to redeem us.  

Our baptismal anointing gave us the duty and warrant to exercise authentically our prophetic vocation in the Church and in the world. Sometimes, the modern-day equivalent of prophets is found on any given Saturday in world cities where you will see individual or a group standing on milk cartons and displaying placards, “God loves us,” or that “We are going to hell” etc or yelling out the same. They claim themslves to be speaking for God and stand for divine values. On the other hand, media is a more credible prophetic voice depending on the source. Religions also trumpet their prophetic voices from pulpits as well as religious media in faithfulness to their traditions. There are secular prophetic groups that sharpen humanity’s conscience against the violations of human of human, animal, and environmental rights. If they are done with pure motives they become truly voices of God in the secular world. Wherever we may be, let us fearlessly announce the values of Jesus’ Kingdom and denounce every violation of them. With boldness and audacity, even if we must pay for it with our lives.

Happy Sunday! Bon Dimanche! Buona Domenica! Schönen Sonntag! Gelukkige Zondag! Szczęśliwej Niedzieli! Sretna Nedjelja! Shubha Iru Dinak, Iniya Gnaayiru! Ravivaar Mubaarak Ho!