Pay Attention to Christ and His Authentic Prophets
Readings: 1st: Deut 18:15-20; Ps 94:1-9; 2nd: 1Cor 7:32-35: Gos: Mk 1:21-28
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
On this 4th Sunday of ordinary time, the church encourages us to listen attentively to Christ. He is our teacher, who speaks with authority. Also, she reminds us of the consequences of speaking falsely in the Lord’s name.
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Our first reading from Deuteronomy is one of those passages in the bible, referred to as the messianic prophecies. Through this prophecy from Moses, God promised us the messiah. This promise was fulfilled in Christ. On his part, Christ called authentic ministers to be his prophets. So, we need to pay attention to these genuine prophets. Hence: “Those who will not listen to the words of the prophets shall be answerable to me for it.”
Unfortunately, today many claim to be God’s prophets. God knew this beforehand that such false prophets will arise. So, He was clear about their fate: “Those who presume to say in my name what I have not commanded them to say shall die.”
The question is, how do we know and distinguish false prophets? Matthew gives us a clue: “Beware of false prophets. You will know them by their fruits” (7: 15-20). So, this calls for wisdom, vigilance, discernment, and paying attention to the church.
Today’s second reading is very important in this regard. Paul gave an outstanding counsel about celibacy and marriage. However, at the beginning of this counsel, Paul was wise to add: “Now concerning the unmarried, I do not have a command from the Lord (I Cor 7: 25).” After this, he proceeded to give his wise opinion.
As a prophet, Paul knew the consequence of saying, “Thus says the Lord” when the Lord did not command him to speak. He simply gave his opinions, which was a wise thing to do. Paul did not have to be false by saying that God commanded him to speak. Neither did he need to deceive anyone to make his point. Yet, his points were clear.
In today’s gospel, Jesus was passionate about his people. He never deceived them or made false claims. Instead, in contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, He taught with authority. This was not based on worldly credentials or his ability to cite precedents. His only credential was that he is the Son of God. His authority came from his father. Hence, a true prophet should rely principally on God.
Therefore, we must discern every prophecy and evaluate them based on God’s word in the scriptures. Whatever is against the plain sense of the scripture, or any prophesy that promotes an unhealthy lifestyle and shallow spirituality, obviously cannot be from God.
Unfortunately, even authentic prophets can also err. Surely, they can, when they lose focus and becomes very proud. When one stops listing to Christ, he or she begins to listen to him or herself. Then, to make up for one’s emptiness, one gives his or her word in God’s name.
So, let us continue to listen to Jesus and pay attention only to his authentic prophets who speak for God. “O that today you listen to his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Peace be with You!