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A prophet

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Biblical prophecy is not about clairvoyants or fortune telling. A prophet, or a prophetess for there are also some in the Old Testament, has a concrete mission, namely, to call Israel to fidelity to the covenant and to awaken the individual consciences so that every member of the people of God may walk a path of conversion, avoiding the pitfalls and dangers for the faith of Israel posed by temptations and the idols surrounding them.

The prophets that God arises have different trades and backgrounds. Sometimes they carry out their ministry alone, sometimes in groups. They are messengers of peace, love and hope. They do not announce impending doom, but they do point out the logical and natural consequences of disobedience to mandate of the Lord and idolatry. They suffer in their own bodies the consequences of sin and the infidelity of the people. They are slandered, exiled and sometimes even murdered because their voice is unpleasant for those who do not wish to listen to the Spirit of God who speaks through them.

John the Baptist, whom we find in the Gospel this Sunday, was of a priestly lineage. The Old Testament priesthood was hereditary. Yet, he is a proper prophet in his own right. He calls the people to conversion. In fact, the baptism of John which is essentially different from the sacrament of Baptism that we have received, is a call to conversion.

Additionally, John announces the presence of God in the midst of the people. Jesus Christ, whom he points out as the Messiah and whom he invites to listen to and follow, is true God and true man. As we know full well, John’s faithfulness to the mission brought him suffering, even to the point of shedding his blood on account of his proclamation of the teachings of God in their entirety and his witness to truth in the face of the powerful of his time.

All the baptized, by virtue of the sacrament we have received, participate of the prophetic mission of Christ.

These days, we remember with special affection and gratitude a Christian who can also be properly called a prophet by analogy with the prophets of the Old Testament and John the Baptist. I am thinking of the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, who died last December 31.

It is worth remembering as a kind of synthesis of his luminous pontificate, the prophetic words he addressed to the Latin American bishops gathered in Aparecida, Brazil in 2007.

“The Church has the great task of guarding and nourishing the faith of the People of God, and reminding the faithful of this Continent that, by virtue of their Baptism, they are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ. This implies following him, living in intimacy with him, imitating his example and bearing witness. Every baptized person receives from Christ, like the Apostles, the missionary mandate: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized, will be saved.”  To be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ and to seek life “in him” presupposes being deeply rooted in him.

What does Christ actually give us? Why do we want to be disciples of Christ? The answer is: because, in communion with him, we hope to find life, the true life that is worthy of the name, and thus we want to make him known to others, to communicate to them the gift that we have found in him…

Could this priority not perhaps be a flight towards emotionalism, towards religious individualism, an abandonment of the urgent reality of the great economic, social and political problems of Latin America and the world, and a flight from reality towards a spiritual world?

As a first step, we can respond to this question with another: what is this “reality”? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems “reality”? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of “reality” and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction.

The first basic point to affirm, then, is the following: only those who recognize God know reality and are able to respond to it adequately and in a truly human manner.”

We make our own the words of pope Francis at the end of the Mass celebrated for him who dedicated his life to humanize the world, proclaiming the love of God, God who is love, who has a human face because He became flesh and because we find his face in our brothers and sisters: “Benedict, faithful friend of the Bridegroom, may your joy be complete as you hear his voice, now and forever!”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid