Saturday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time Year 2
(Jer 26:11-16,24; Mt 14:1-12)
The Salt March done by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi gained a worldwide attention on April 30, 1930. As he completed it he will not be forgotten because it was associated with India’s fight for independence against the British Raj. He was instrumental in India’s victory and the Salt March to Dandi was seen as the defining moment in the struggle. Gandhi was known as “mahatma” which means “Great Soul.” He was known to be India’s spiritual leader and a chief political activist during its battle for autonomy through non-violent means known as Satyagraha. Satyagraha was integral to the success of the salt march and the defusing of conflict that had been grumbling for decades in India. (taken from the book, 100 Greatest Events that Changed the World, p, 70) Mahatma Gandhi was a prophet in India who protested against the British government upon taxes which were imposed on salt. The British Salt Monopoly and the protest by Gandhi gained worldwide attention and gained also the impetus to two movements: Civil Disobedience Movement and the Indian Independence Movement. Today, the two readings speak of prophets: Jeremiah in the first reading who spoke to the prophets, priests and princes of the people to reform their lives otherwise they face the chastisement and wrath of God, and John the Baptist in the Gospel who spoke against Herod on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he took for himself. The life of the Prophets is not easy but they have to speak and obey God who sends them. All of us are called to be prophets who project and radiate God’s presence, His will, His Word and His plans. Let us look on the life of a prophet.
1. Life of Change- A prophet usually carries in him a message of change. The message is not of his own, but from the person who commissioned him to go and to speak. He speaks and acts according to what was instructed to him. Since a prophet exists and appears because of a crisis, change has to be the immediate remedy for God is about to bring challenges to the people. A prophet’s central message is restoration and order. In the first reading today, the Prophet Jeremiah cries out for two important things: to reform one’s life and to listen to the voice or word of the Lord. And once they do these, “the LORD will repent of the evil with which he threatens you.” Change is painful but it is an important remedy to wickedness and sin. The Lord desires life and peace in each of us, so, He calls for change and He listens to us. The Responsorial Psalm says: “the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.” In the same manner, John the Baptist appeared to change the crooked life of Herod but was met with opposition and death. A prophet suffers with his message of reform and change because change is painful, it is counter-pride, and a path of humility.
2. Life of Obedience- The word prophet comes from the Hebrew word “nabi” which means “soothsayer” or “messenger.” He speaks on behalf of God. He is an inspired preacher, the mouthpiece of God, and a foreteller of the future. He lives a life of obedience because the message he carries is from God. He has to speak out these messages he received from God. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet even from his mother’s womb. In the womb, God set Jeremiah apart and “appointed as a prophet to the nations.” The Lord himself would “put words in my mouth” (Jer 1:9) and make him like a “fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land.” (Jer 1:18) He was constrained by obedience to speak the word of God even from before his birth. In the same way, John the Baptist was already commissioned to be the precursor of Jesus when from the womb of Elizabeth he leapt for joy upon meeting Jesus who was also in the womb of the Blessed Mother. This signified the role of John the Baptist who will fulfill God’s will through a life of obedience. Both Jeremiah and John the Baptist got their meaningful vocations when they were still in the womb of their mother. A prophet may be called to obedience even during their prenatal period.
3. Life of Persecution- the message of the prophet does not end with cursing and chastisements or a retribution for the unfaithfulness of the people toward the covenant, but it is a message of hope and restoration. However, prophets met opposition and persecution. Though their prophecies were filled with unconditional promises of hope, mercy, forgiveness, peace and joy, they still had to suffer against the people who are obstinate and unwilling to change. In the Old Testament, the prophets’ vocation was to enforce and apply the Mosaic Law which was the embodiment of God’s will for Israel that time. To be opposed means to suffer, endure, and to languish. Both Jeremiah and John the Baptist met their own ordeals. This is a message for all of us too who stand also as prophets of our times. It is not easy to project God’s presence, His Word and His will by our life of witness, speech, counsel and exhortation. We all shall meet pain and suffering by people who reject both the message and the messenger. Yet it is always a life of joy to fulfill God’s divine will despite persecution and pain.
Who should promote vocation to the Priesthood?
“The duty of fostering vocations pertains to the whole Christian community, which should exercise it above all by a fully Christian life. The principal contributors to this are the families which, animated by the spirit of faith and love and by the sense of duty, become a kind of initial seminary, and the parishes in whose rich life the young people take part.”
(Optatam Totius 2)