Central idea: Christ the prophet par excellence. Doctrine: The laity’s participation in the office of Christ the prophet. Practical application: Lay prophets.
To view Lectionary 72, click here.
Central idea: Christ the Prophet par excellence
Reading 1 Jer 1:4-5, 17-19
The word of the LORD came to me, saying:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I dedicated you,
a prophet to the nations I appointed you.
But do you gird your loins;
stand up and tell them
all that I command you.
Be not crushed on their account,
as though I would leave you crushed before them;
for it is I this day
who have made you a fortified city,
a pillar of iron, a wall of brass,
against the whole land:
against Judah’s kings and princes,
against its priests and people.
They will fight against you but not prevail over you,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.
- God calls every human being to salvation and sanctification. Within the Church he also calls each one of us to a specific vocation by means of which we pursue our call to holiness.
- God also calls some persons to extraordinary vocations, like Jeremiah, John the Baptist, and of course Christ and then his apostles. In this case the call is to Jeremiah to be a prophet.
- True prophets tell the truth to people who don’t know it or who know it but reject it. This arouses the wrath of kings, princes, priests, and people.
- This is scary. Even Our Lord sweated blood in apprehension of his looming Passion. But God makes his prophet strong, in fact invincible, against those who oppose him.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17
R. I will sing of your salvation.
In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
In your justice rescue me, and deliver me;
incline your ear to me, and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
a stronghold to give me safety,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
O my God, rescue me from the hand of the wicked.
For you are my hope, O Lord;
my trust, O God, from my youth.
On you I depend from birth;
from my mother’s womb you are my strength.
My mouth shall declare your justice,
day by day your salvation.
O God, you have taught me from my youth,
and till the present I proclaim your wondrous deeds.
- God tells Jeremiah and through him all of us, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.” We can grid our loins, stand up, not be crushed because God is our refuge and our strength.
- Our problem may be only ourselves—we lack fortitude, that is, toughness in the face of pain and courage in the face of fear. Very often, opposition comes from good people or people trying to do good in a way that seems to be good to them. But the psalmist also names the worst opponent: “the hand of the wicked.”
- We pray for strength. We pray, too, for those with good intentions who block us. We also pray for the wicked and hope for their conversion. But we don’t stop doing what we should be doing.
Reading 2 1 Cor 12:31—13:13
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.
But I shall show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in human and angelic tongues,
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy,
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, it is not pompous,
It is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
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.
- Vatican II taught that every Christian shares in the prophetic office of Christ. The most important truth we can proclaim in this life is the living witness of love in the way St. Paul describes:
- This means to live a love which is patient and kind, which is not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude, not self-seeking, not quick-tempered, not resentful, which does not rejoice over evil, which rejoices in the truth, and which bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things.
- These qualities are a portrait of the heart of Christ, what he taught and what he lived.
Gospel Lk 4:21-30
Jesus began speaking in the synagogue, saying:
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
And all spoke highly of him
and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.
They also asked, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb,
‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say,
‘Do here in your native place
the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.’”
And he said, “Amen, I say to you,
no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
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.
But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.
- Luke recounts Jesus’ hometown fellow Jewish neighbors’ initial admiration and then murderous rejection. This was the pattern of Our Lord’s entire public ministry. First acclaim and then execution.
- Jesus’ old neighbors may think that if Jesus really is a prophet like one of the prophets of old, that if God really was showing his favor through Jesus, then they had a special right to it. This may be why the examples Jesus recalls of God’s favor given through a prophet are bestowed on Gentiles. Indeed, as Our Lord said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Salvation is from the Jews” (Jn 4:22), but it is for
Doctrine: The laity’s participation in the office of Christ the prophet
- Of all the prophets God has commissioned throughout salvation history, Our Lord is the prophet par excellence because of who he is and what he does: he is the Truth and he reveals the full truth about God and man to us. He entrusted this truth to the apostles, who passed on this prophetic office to their successors, the bishops.
- However, “Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word” (LG 35, quoted in CCC 904). As St. Thomas Aquinas put it succinctly, “To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer” (STh. III, 71, 4 ad quoted in CCC 904).
- Lay evangelization is “the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life . . . in the ordinary circumstances of the world” to both believers and unbelievers (CCC 905).
- Believers need to hear the Gospel and to receive on-going instruction in the riches of the faith.
- The laity can also participate in the Church’s formal proclamation of the Truth. “Lay people who are capable and trained may also collaborate in catechetical formation, in teaching the sacred sciences, and in use of the communications media” (CCC 906).
- Finally, “In accord with the knowledge, competence, and preeminence which they possess, [lay people] have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and they have a right to make their opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward their pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons” (CCC 907).
Practical application: Lay prophets
- Historically in the USA until the mid-1960s, the majority of all teaching in the Church was done by priests and religious (think of the religious orders of women who staffed Catholic schools). Now the laity make up the vast majority of Catholic school teachers at every level. In addition, thousands of faithful Catholic laity have or are pursuing degrees in philosophy and theology in order to serve the Church.
- We can thank any lay teachers or catechists we encounter for their service and encourage talented lay persons to dedicate their lives to the prophetic apostolate.
- It behoves Catholic of whatever age to get continuous formation in the fundamentals of our Catholic faith.
- Every effort we make to live the faith authentically is an exercise of the prophetic office of Christ in which the laity share. This is our “testimony of life.”
- We also need to find ways to talk about the faith. This is our “proclamation of Christ by word.” As Vatican II put it, “the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful.” (AG 15 quoted in CCC 905). Again, as St. Thomas put it, “To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer.”
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)