Saturday, March 25, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Lent Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Prophets Unaware

In 1923 a book was published which has become not only a best seller but a book written by the third best selling poet in all of history, according to the Wikipedia. The first best selling poet is Shakespeare. The second is the Chinese poet Lao Tze.  And the third best selling poet is the author of this best seller book published in 1923. The title of this book is THE PROPHET. Its author is Kahlil Gibran. This book has been translated into more than 60 languages and in English has sold more than 9 million copies.

When I bought this book in the 1970s I thought that its author was a Muslim. It is only this month that I knew that Kahlil was a Catholic, a Catholic of the Maronite Rite, an Eastern or non-Roman Catholic rite.

There was a passage in that book which has influenced the rearing of my children. I do not remember much of what I read there but this passage stood out and it influenced the rearing of my children. Listen to this passage:

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

This passage was instrumental in my not dictating to my children what they would be in life. I just let them be what they wanted to be.

Why did I introduce my homily today with information about the book THE PROPHET? Because our Gospel reading today talks about a prophet whose quality or function or role as a prophet we have not taken seriously.

There is a passage in Deuteronomy about a prophet whom God would raise up from among the Israelites after Moses was gone. God said to the children of Israel, "I will raise up for them a prophet like you (Moses) from among their kinsmen, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him" (18:18). This verse also tells us the basic role of a prophet, he speaks the words of God, from God, for God to the people.

Commentators identify this prophet as any true prophet coming after Moses. But they also point out that in a special way this prophecy applies to Jesus who is "the Great Prophet in whom the prophetic office finds its fulfillment and completion" (NAB foot Commentary).

And that is what we read in our Gospel today. When the blind man who was now healed of his blindness was asked by the Pharisees what he thought of his healer, he replied, "He is a prophet." What he meant was that this man had a commission from God to speak for him and to do things for him.

This role of Jesus as a prophet is not given due importance by us today. Perhaps this is because we refer to him mostly as Savior and Lord. But Jesus is indeed the Great Prophet, as the commentary in the New American Bible declares. And perhaps because we do not give due importance to this role of Jesus as the prophet we also do not give due recognition to our own role as prophets.

In baptism we were made to share in this role of Jesus as prophets. Our Catechism tells us, "By Baptism they (the faithful) share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1268)

And our role as prophets of God was confirmed when we were confirmed in the sacrament of Confirmation. Here is what our Catechism tells us, "- it (Confirmation) gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross" (1303). That is what we do as prophets, we spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witness of Christ, we confess the name of Christ boldly and are never ashamed of the Cross.

Our first readings tells us how a prophet is proclaimed or recognized or made one. It is by anointing with oil which signifies the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  Samuel was told by the Lord to fill his horn with oil and to anoint David the new king of Judah. This is how we also were made prophets, by anointing with oil in baptism which signifies the Holy Spirit. This was again done in our confirmation.

Our second reading tells us our work as prophets. Specifically Paul tells us "Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light."

When we tell others about our faith in Jesus, when we sing praises to God, declaring “the wonderful deeds” of God during Mass for all to hear, when we teach a little child how to say grace before meals, we are exercising our prophetic role, we are imitating Jesus the Great Prophet. We may not be aware that we are exercising this prophetic role but we are prophets, though unaware, but truly prophets by being anointed in baptism and confirmation and by our unity with Jesus the Great Prophet.

What is unique about Jesus as a prophet is that he not only tells us the words of God from God for God. He enlightens us, he gives us the light to understand what he says. He opens the eyes of our body and soul to understand the words of God.

I started this homily with a reference to the book THE PROPHET by Kahlil Gibran. Nowhere in that book is it stated that this prophet is Jesus. As related in that story the name of that prophet is Almustafa which sounds like a Muslim name, the main character of the story. But when we ask why this book has sold 9 millions more than other books in history, my answer is that this book makes the reader connect with the spiritual world. We are a people hungry for the things of the spirit. And when we read something which fills this void for the things of the spirit, we gladly devour the words in that book.

That is what Jesus as the Great Prophet is. He connects us with his Father, the father of all spirits. He satisfies our thirst for spiritual things as we learned last Sunday. As prophet he opens the eyes of our soul to see spiritual realities.

Lent is a special time of pausing and reflecting on the spiritual side of things. Our readings tell us that Jesus heals our blindness so that we can see the spiritual realities in our lives. As Jesus healed the blind man of his blindness, he also heals the eyes of our souls so that we can see the things of the spirit.

Let us bow our heads in prayer. Lord Jesus, you suffered and died and rose again from the dead so that we can be elevated to the spiritual realities. Make us see these spiritual realities now and lift us to your cross and coming glory. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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