Throughout our lectionary readings at Mass during this month of December we hear of and from a lot of prophets. Isaiah, Zechariah, Elijah, Zephaniah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Nathan, and even the New Testament prophets, John the Baptist and Anna.
These prophets span centuries, yet each serve a unique role pointing towards the Messiah, the Savior—Jesus the Christ. They declare the eternal promises of God, proclaim joy, preach a new turning towards God, spur others to reverence and worship for God, and more! It’s easy to think of prophets and prophecy as something of the past. Ancient history. Exciting, but part of a bygone era.
Yet as we journey toward the end of the Christmas season, the Church calls us to consider our own roles in Christ Jesus as true prophets.
This year on January 11, we’ll celebrate Jesus’ baptism. At this baptism in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus “in bodily form, as a dove” (Lk 3:22) and “remained on him” (Jn 1:32). The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king” (CCC §783).
So where do we fit in?
The Catechism elaborates on what this means for us. First, “the whole People of God [that’s each and every one of us as disciples!] participates in these three offices of Christ.” This participation is more than just showing up. More than simply an option for those “really devout, really spiritual types.” Each of us “bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow” from the three offices of priest, prophet, and king (§783). Through our own baptisms, we participate in Christ’s prophetic office as prophets who deepen our understandings of the “supernatural sense of faith” and become “Christ’s witnesses in the midst of this world” (§785).
In the context of settling a dispute among the Corinthians regarding the various spiritual gifts [=charisms] present in the community of believers, St. Paul gives some concrete examples. When we share in Christ’s prophetic office, it means we “speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace” for the sake of building up the church (1 Cor 14:3-4). St. Paul proposes that if the whole local church is meeting in one place and “everyone is prophesying, and an unbeliever or uninstructed person should come in,” this new person will be convinced and ”fall down and worship God, declaring, ‘God is really in your midst’” (1 Cor 14:23-25).
Powerful stuff! Do you think of yourself as a prophet? Do you take action in sharing in Christ’s prophetic office?
Through baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. We are anointed with the Holy Spirit and empowered by God to be His prophets. Catholic theologian Yves Congar, O.P., summarized that prophecy allows us to “judge the times and the things that exist in time in the light of their truth in relation to the Absolute and to the end towards which they are directed.”
Our world needs prophets like us. Real individuals, with diverse personalities, and unique abilities to speak of the supernatural, to encourage and comfort, to build up the Church, and discern how to be true Christian witnesses in our times and places. God shares the gift of the prophetic office with us through Jesus Christ so that we can use it.
How will you speak a prophetic word to the world around you this coming year?
Copyright 2014, Colleen Vermeulen