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Our words must reflect our lives

  • January 22, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 1 (Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35; Mark 1:21-28)

Movements and new organizations often do not survive the death of the founder. Usually something vital is lost and the original charism begins to fade.

At the centre of Deuteronomy’s message was the rather sobering but reassuring assertion that it wasn’t all about Moses. He would surely pass from the scene, but God would raise up from among them someone to follow in Moses’ footsteps. He would have equal authority and would be accorded the same obedience as Moses.

It is important to remember that Deuteronomy was written centuries after Moses, possibly in the seventh century B.C., during a period of intense reform in Israel. It was meant to legitimate later prophets and their message of repentance and reform.

This prophecy found a second life in the New Testament — there were many references to one referred to merely as “the prophet.”

The Gospel of John contains several references (1:21, 25; 6:14; 7:40, 52). But the basic principle stands — it is not about individuals, but about God.

It is God that will put the words in the mouth of a legitimate prophet, so it really doesn’t matter who it is or when this individual lives.

God is the same always, and God will never be absent or allow people to be without guidance. It still calls for discernment. Even though anyone can be called to speak in a prophetic voice, not everyone who jumps up and claims to be speaking on God’s behalf is genuine.

Self-illusion or outright fraud or power seeking can enter into the picture. The proclamation has to be consistent with what has been given before, and it must truly reflect divine principles.

False prophets have always been plentiful, as the prophetic books of the Old Testament tell us.

In our own time, careful discernment is even more vital if we are to hear the genuine message of God, for God and His messengers are still in our midst.

Advice given in a particular time and circumstance to certain individuals can become something very different when applied universally.

Paul lived in expectation of the imminent return of Jesus and passing away of the world as he knew it. He advised members of his community to remain in the state in which they had been called — married, single, slave or free — and concentrate on fidelity to the Lord in the short remaining time.

His advice should not be used to place marriage in a secondary status. It is not entirely true that an unmarried person will spend all of their energy serving God or a married person be divided in loyalties.

This depends very much on the individuals involved. Every baptized Christian is called upon to give whatever they can in service to God and others regardless of their state in life.

There are those voices that even though they may be polished and eloquent, leave one unmoved and indifferent. Still others are dangerous voices: the silky and manipulative words of those in power, or the agitated, hysterical voices of religious fanatics and political demagogues and dictators.

They have the ability to stir passions and emotions and to captivate the judgment and will. But there are some voices — too few — that have a quality that demands respectful listening and even obedience.

It has nothing to do with rhetorical skill. There is no workshop that can teach one to speak like a person with authority. You either have it or you don’t, and Jesus definitely did.

The demons knew who He was and why He had come, and they were not happy about it. The voice Jesus used to silence and expel them came from deep within, and its power derived from its complete harmony with God. The result was the rescue of an afflicted individual and the expulsion of evil.

That is the key to discernment — a voice with authority moves people to work for good. It will not stir them up to persecute or act in an unjust or unkind manner, nor will it arouse baser passions and emotions. To have authority our words must flow from a compassionate and just heart. But most of all, our words must reflect the way we live our own life.

Words are very cheap in our world, so let us make every word count.

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