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RCIA – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time -Year C – Prophets

January 31, 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

Take a moment and picture God forming you in your mother’s womb for a special purpose.

Opening Prayer: God, you formed us in our mothers’ wombs. You know us well, and you appoint us to speak your word to others in our world. Let your word deepen in us. Speak your word to us now in our time together. We ask this through Christ our Savior. Amen.

Today’s readings present Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet and Jesus beginning to live his ministry as a prophet. Prophets hear God’s word spoken within them. The passage from the opening of the Book of Jeremiah is a classic example of how the Jewish scriptures describe God’s call of an individual to be a prophet. The divine initiative is highlighted (“Before I formed you… before you were born,” [v5]); and the nature of the prophet’s ministry is anticipated, both its universal aspect (“… a prophet to the nations,” [v5]), as well as the resistance he will encounter (“…they will fight against you,” [v19]). The prophet is reassured that God will protect him from his enemies and enable him to carry out his mandate. Today’s reading does not include the prophet’s response, and this tends to focus our attention even more on God’s role in the encounter. Two important themes from the Jeremiah reading will reappear in today’s Gospel: the mission of the prophet to the nations, and the inevitability of resistance to his ministry.

What word did God speak in your heart in today’s liturgy?

The first reading: Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19

God said that He formed Jeremiah in the womb,

God knew Jeremiah even before this,

and that before Jeremiah was born God dedicated him.

What is your own sense of how God has formed you, known you, dedicated you?

Place your hands on your heart as a gesture to acknowledge that you have been formed by God and are dedicated by God. … As you sit with your hands on your heart, what do you want to pray to God for?

Psalm 71

The psalm expresses the sentiments of one who encounters opposition but trusts deeply in God’s protection. One can envision both Jeremiah and Jesus praying this psalm at different points in their respective careers.

The second reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

This week’s second reading continues where we left off last week, which also continued from the previous week. Two weeks ago Paul told us about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and how they are all of equal value in God’s eyes. Last week Paul said that the gifts that God gave us and each individual are all part of the Body of Christ. And today Paul gives a larger context to his preaching. He is telling the Corinthian community to cease its jealousies and contentions and to instead express mutual acceptance and love for each other. As great as our gifts are, they are only partial compared to that of Christ. “When the perfect comes, the partial will pass away,” and the perfect has come in Jesus Christ. Listening to the words of Christ enable us to know fully, just as we are fully known by God from the first moment he formed us in the womb.

The Christian Call to Prophecy

The Gospel: Luke 4:21-30

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last Sunday’s, when we heard that Jesus claimed in his hometown of Nazareth that the prophetic words of Isaiah are fulfilled in him. Today’s passage goes on to speak of the response of indignation of the townspeople to the point of literally throwing him out of town. At first the people who hear Jesus preach are amazed at his gracious words. Yet they insist on measuring him according to their own sub-par standards.

When have you experienced speaking the truth and feeling the rejection or scorn of others? What was this like for you?

God has given to every member of the Church the offices of priest, prophet and king. How often do we recognize the gift of prophecy in our fellow Christians? The Lord has placed them here to speak to us and contribute to our own sanctification. Let us not reject the gift of God, like those in today’s Gospel, because we see the one bringing it as “ordinary.” Rather let us recognize God’s voice in our fellowmen. Let us listen for the extraordinary message that we just may hear.

Luke continues to assert that Jesus has come for all people, including the Gentiles as represented by the stories of Elijah and Elisha. Here Luke is anticipating a fundamental theme of his Gospel; in reaching out to those most desperately in need of salvation (the Gentiles), Jesus would encounter resistance from his fellow Jews, but he would persevere and would continue steadfastly “on his way” (v30). Luke intends for this example of Jesus to be followed by His disciples as well. Preaching to the outcast and steadfast perseverance in the face of opposition are fundamental to the Christian’s baptismal call as a prophet.

What words of Jesus do you find difficult to hear?

What people or groups of people do you find hard to include?

This Gospel cuts into Christian experience in two ways. First, disciples of Christ at times are called to speak the truth in various situations. Second, God continues to challenge Christians beyond our own limited view of situations and people.

Which of these two ways do you sense God is speaking to you today in this gospel? Are you being called to speak the truth in some way? Or are you being called to see someone of some situation with new eyes?

Catholic Doctrine – Our Identity as Prophets

Prophets hear God’s word within themselves, and know they are called to speak this word to others. Prophets did not tell the future. However, God’s word at times stated that unless people changed their lives, there would be a negative result. Many times throughout the Old Testament the Jewish people would become lazy about their faith and God would send a prophet. The prophet saw life from the perspective of God and preached accordingly. In that sense the prophet could be said to “speak for” or on the behalf of God. The prominent prophets in the Christian Bible are Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. These prophets frequently “enacted” their prophecies and warned the people of the consequences of their activities. They also formed the people in the hope of God’s salvation and the promise of redemption (CCC 64). Because prophets were usually speaking a difficult truth, they often were not received well. Jeremiah was even thrown in a pit.

Although it does not describe his entire identity, Jesus functions as a prophet. In Old Testament times, those who were called and set apart for a special lifelong task by God (priests, kings and some prophets) were anointed. The term Christ, from the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah,” which means “anointed,” indicates the prophetic mission of Jesus in that some prophets were anointed  for their task. Because Jesus fulfills God’s message of love and concern for the world he was anointed for his mission as priest, prophet and king (CCC 436).

Christians are called to speak a prophetic voice. By baptism believers share in the mission of Jesus. The newly baptized are anointed and the Church prays:

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has freed you from sin and given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people. He now anoints you with the chrism of salvation. As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life. (Rite of Infant Baptism, n 98)

Catholics believe that our baptismal identity in Christ as prophets empowers us to spread the good news, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). Those who are baptized are not prophets in the sense of the Old Testament prophets. That age ended with John the Baptist. A new age is inaugurated in Christ who commands us to be prophets of the gospel, going to the ends of the earth with this good news.

Catholic Culture – The Missionary Spirit

God our Father wishes all people and all creation to be saved and sanctified. Therefore as Christians we are not the sole objects of God’s care. But as Christians we do hold a privileged place in the Father’s heart, as members of Christ’s Body, the Church. With this place within the Body of Christ comes the mission of being co-redeemers with Christ. It is through Christ that all are saved. As members of Christ’s Body we participate in this redemption. It is through the mystical Body of Christ that those of all nations, and all people who seek God with sincere hearts, may be saved.

St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”) and St. Francis Xavier are the patron saints of the missions. Therese, a Carmelite nun, was given the name Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face (1873-97). She died of tuberculosis but not before she had completed an autobiography detailing not so much the events of her life as the action of God’s loving grace in those events – in spite of the great suffering she experienced. Francis, a Jesuit priest (1506-52), undertook missionary work in India and Japan. He died while attempting to enter China to begin more missionary efforts there.

Who are some people you know who have spoken God’s word to the world? Think of people in your family, in your city or neighborhood, or people you know about nationally or internationally. What is the word this person spoke? What is the effect of this word? What happened to the person speaking it?

Some additional examples of people who have spoken the truth:

  • Cesar Chavez, who spoke for the rights of the United Farm Workers
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., though not of the Catholic community, speaking for racial equality
  • Dorothy Day (1897-1980) worked with and for the poor. Day was a convert to Catholicism. She founded the Catholic Worker movement in the US, embraced voluntary poverty, opened a house of hospitality and a farm commune.
  • Jean Vanier, involved with L’Arche community
  • Oscar Romero (1917-1980), Bishop of El Salvador. He preached against the violence occasioned by attempts at land reform and publicly condemned human rights abuses. He was assassinated while celebrating Mass on March 24, 1980.

As Christians, followers of the Prince of peace, we are called to be peacemakers in the world. But how then do we find ourselves causing strife rather than peace by our careless words and actions? God does not ask us to be defenseless or pushovers, but he does call us not to cause harm to others. Just as by helping the unfortunate we can show our love for Christ, by our negligence or ill-will toward our brothers and sisters, we show disregard for our Savior. Let us live joyfully in love and peace.

Putting Faith into Practice

What is the word of God you have heard within and know needs to be spoken? What is the word you are willing to speak this week?

St. Thomas Aquinas

Feastday: January 28

St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor of the Church, patron of all universities and of students. His feast day is January 28th. He was born toward the end of the year 1226. He was the son of Landulph, Count of Aquino, who, when St. Thomas was five years old, placed him under the care of the Benedictines of Monte Casino. His teachers were surprised at the progress he made, for he surpassed all his fellow pupils in learning as well as in the practice of virtue.

When he became of age to choose his state of life, St. Thomas renounced the things of this world and resolved to enter the Order of St. Dominic in spite of the opposition of his family. In 1243, at the age of seventeen, he joined the Dominicans of Naples. Some members of his family resorted to all manner of means over a two year period to break his constancy. They even went so far as to send an impure woman to tempt him. But all their efforts were in vain and St. Thomas persevered in his vocation. As a reward for his fidelity, God conferred upon him the gift of perfect chastity, which has merited for him the title of the “Angelic Doctor”.

After making his profession at Naples, he studied at Cologne under the celebrated St. Albert the Great. Here he was nicknamed the “dumb ox” because of his silent ways and huge size, but he was really a brilliant student. At the age of twenty-two, he was appointed to teach in the same city. At the same time, he also began to publish his first works. After four years he was sent to Paris. The saint was then a priest. At the age of thirty-one, he received his doctorate.

At Paris he was honored with the friendship of the King, St. Louis, with whom he frequently dined. In 1261, Urban IV called him to Rome where he was appointed to teach, but he positively declined to accept any ecclesiastical dignity. St. Thomas not only wrote (his writings filled twenty hefty tomes characterized by brilliance of thought and lucidity of language), but he preached often and with greatest fruit. Clement IV offered him the archbishopric of Naples which he also refused. He left the great monument of his learning, the “Summa Theologica”, unfinished, for on his way to the second Council of Lyons, ordered there by Gregory X, he fell sick and died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova in 1274.

St. Thomas was one of the greatest and most influential theologians of all time. He was canonized in 1323 and declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius V.

Closing Prayer: O God, you have crated, formed, and appointed us to speak your word of truth and justice for others. Open our lips. Put your word in our mouths. Give us the strength we need to live as Jesus calls us. Help us stand and walk straight. Empower us with your love and truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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