Are You a Prophet? How Would You Know?

Monsignor. Charles Pope is currently a dean and pastor in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. He has served on the Priest Council, the College of Consultors, and the Priest Personnel Board. He publishes a daily blog on the Archdiocese of Washington website. Monsignor Pope has written in pastoral journals. He has conducted numerous retreats for priests and lay faithful. He has also conducted weekly Bible studies in the U.S. Congress and the White House.

I noticed something he wrote for Sunday, January 30, 2022. That was the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. One of the Mass readings was from the prophet Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19. Prophets “speak truth to power.” They point out where the people of God fall short. Those are some of the reasons they are unpopular. Prophets are among us today. They are also desperately needed.

I found what he wrote engaging. I’d like to share it with you.

Prophets are those who speak for God. People-pleasing and other forms of human respect cannot supplant reverence for God. It cannot supersede or undermine. his truth. Prophets are willing to proclaim God’s truth to an often-unappreciative audience. Often they endure suffering and even death doing so. The readings from Sunday, January 30, 2022, set forth certain principles for prophets. Let’s examine them.

Prevenient nature of our call: God tells Jeremiah (and us), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Yes, he knew, loved, and made us in a way that prepared and equipped us for the work of being prophets

The purview of our call: God tells Jeremiah (and us), “I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah himself did not journey beyond Israel. Yet, since his time, the Word of the Lord uttered through him has reached every nation. Stay in your lane, do your work, and remember that, through God’s grace, your influence can reach the nations.

Preparation of our call: The Lord tells Jeremiah (and us) to “gird our loins.” This is an ancient way of saying, “Roll up your sleeves.” In other words, prepare to work by assembling what you need and getting ready to expend an effort. For us, this means daily prayer, weekly Eucharist, and frequent confession. It means prayerfully reading God’s word and the teachings of the Church. It means keeping fellowship with the Church and with fellow believers. All this equips, empowers, and enables us for the work God has called us to do: be prophets.

Prescription of our call: The text says, “[T]ell them all that I command you.” In other words, leave nothing out; proclaim the whole counsel of God. Don’t say what is popular or agrees with worldly thinking.

Power of our call: The text says: “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them.” A prophet needs to be strong, for people are stubborn and hesitant to change. A prophet also needs support. Thus the text says, “For it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass.” God’s Word, the sacraments, prayer, and holy fellowship empower true prophets.

Purity of our call: Jeremiah is told that the priests, kings, and princes have all been corrupted. He must speak the truth to them and summon them to repentance. It is easier to preach to the converted and to those who can exercise little authority over us. But speaking the truth to powerful people is often the unenviable lot of the prophet.

Prize of our call: The text says, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you. I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

We may face laughter, ridicule, persecution, setbacks, and trials. Yet, what every true prophet announces will come to pass. History bears this out, and it will be made manifest on the Last Day. Darkness cannot prevail; it always gives way to the light. The Lord Jesus shows us this in today’s Gospel, even if only in a small way. The text says, “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.”

In the end, God always wins, and every true prophet is on the winning team.

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