Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time: A not-for-prophet group?

“Prophet” is not a label that we, Christians, easily apply to Jesus. It seems a dangerously inferior title, connoting a role shared by too many other persons to be fully worthy of the Lord Jesus.

Jul 08, 2018

14th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
Readings: Ezekiel 2:2-5
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Gospel: Mark 6:1-6

“Prophet” is not a label that we, Christians, easily apply to Jesus. It seems a dangerously inferior title, connoting a role shared by too many other persons to be fully worthy of the Lord Jesus. “Jesus the prophet” recalls the Islamic view that Jesus is, indeed, a prophet, on a line pointing toward the Prophet Muhammad, but not the Son of God. We are distracted, as well, by the modern misconception that biblical prophecy has mainly to do with foretelling the future, something that was not primary in the teaching of Jesus.

We are more comfortable with the titles “priest” and “king,” which seem to honour our Lord more adequately. These are understandable. And, yet, we lose an important part of the gospel portrait of Jesus when we neglect his role as prophet.

For if the titles and images of king and priest are powerful acknowledgments of realities manifest in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the title most appropriate to his pre-Easter public life may well be that of prophet. That is how his contemporaries identified him (“a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people,” said the disciples on the road to Emmaus; Luke 24:19). And that is how the teaching and praying Church continues to proclaim him when it speaks in its liturgy and documents of Jesus as prophet, priest, and king. Tradition, then, warrants our taking seriously that title of prophet.

First, we need to clear up the misconception that biblical prophecy is mainly about predicting the future (Jeane Dixon-style, if you will). The focus is elsewhere; a biblical prophet is one who speaks to the people in the name of God — mainly with reference to the present, though past and future are invoked as they pertain to the present (calling for repentance and offering hope). Typically, prophets speak against “business as usual,” and, therefore, they are normally resisted and rejected. Like John the Baptist, who lost his head by confronting Herod Antipas about his unlawful marriage, Jesus fit the traditional Hebrew role of prophet. People were amazed that he spoke, not as the scribes and Pharisees but, as one having authority.

Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jesus performed prophetic symbolic actions — for example, in his table fellowship with outcasts, his choice of a donkey to enter Jerusalem, his clearing of the Temple area, his washing of feet. As Jesus returns to Nazareth in this Sunday’s Gospel, his own people — even while acknowledging in amazement his wisdom and power — take offence at him. This is a prophet’s lot, Jesus acknowledges. In the Second Reading, Paul, who spoke of his vocation as prophetic (see also Gal 1:11,15), rejoices that he knows the power of God best in his weakness, as he lives out the prophetic role of witnessing to the gospel.

The same goes for us, as we follow the one who proved to be priest and king in his fidelity to the role of prophet. -- By Fr Dennis Hamm, SJ

Thoughts from the Early Church

A prophet is despised only in his own country. (Mk: 6:4).

Brothers and Fathers, many people never stop saying — I have heard them myself — “If only we had lived in the days of the apostles, and been counted worthy to gaze upon Christ as they did, we should have become holy like them.”

Such people do not realise that the Christ who spoke then, and the Christ who speaks now throughout the whole world, is one and the same.

If he were not the same then and now, God in every respect, in his operations as in the sacraments, how would it be seen that the Father is always in the Son and the Son in the Father, according to the words Christ spoke through the Spirit: “My Father is still working and so am I.”

But no doubt someone will say that merely to hear his words now and to be taught about him and his kingdom is not the same thing as to have seen him then in the body.

And I answer that indeed the position now is not the same as it was then, but our situation now, in the present day, is very much better. It leads us more easily to a deeper faith and conviction than seeing and hearing him in the flesh would have done.

Then he appeared to the uncomprehending Jews as a man of lowly station: now he is proclaimed to us as true God. Then in his body he associated with tax collectors and sinners and ate with them: now he is seated at the right hand of God the Father, and is never in any way separated from him.

We are firmly persuaded that it is he who feeds the entire world, and we declare — at least if we are believers — that, without him, nothing came into being. Then even those of lowliest condition held him in contempt. They said, “Is not this the son of Mary, and of Joseph the carpenter?”

Now kings and rulers worship him as Son of the true God, and himself true God, and he has glorified, and continues to glorify, those who worship him in spirit and in truth, although he often punishes them when they sin. He transforms them, more than all the nations under heaven, from clay into iron.

Then he was thought to be mortal and corruptible like the rest of humankind. He was no different in appearance from other men. The formless and invisible God, without change or alteration, assumed a human form and showed himself to be a normal human being. He ate, he drank, he slept, he sweated, and he grew weary. He did everything other people do, except that he did not sin.

For anyone to recognize him in that human body, and to believe that he was the God who made heaven and earth and everything in them was very exceptional.

This is why when Peter said, “You are the Son of the living God,” the master called him blessed, saying, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you” — you do not speak of something your eyes have seen — “but my Father who is in heaven.”

It is certain, therefore, that anyone who now hears Christ cry out daily through the holy Gospels, and proclaim the will of his blessed Father, but does not obey him with fear and trembling and keep his commandments — it is certain that such a person would have refused to believe in him then, if he had been present, and seen him, and heard him teach.

Indeed there is reason to fear that in his total incredulity, he would have blasphemed by regarding Christ not as true God, but as an enemy of God. --Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)

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