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1/26/2006
WORD OF FAITH
Come, follow Him
REV. ROGER KARBAN


Jesus' death and resurrection were not only earth-shaking events for Him, but they also provided a parallel experience for His followers.

Among other things, those events forced them to look from a completely different perspective at the Jesus they had known during His earthly ministry. The prophetic dimension of His personality began to fade into the background of their minds, replaced by something they rarely dared to imagine before Good Friday and Easter Sunday: His divinity.

The longer the authors of the New Testament reflected on Jesus, the more they concentrated on the divine and lost contact with the prophetic.

Prophets among us

Yet, during Jesus' earthly ministry, it was His role as prophet that most impressed people. When He asked His disciples how people were judging Him, most thought He fit the image of the prophets of old.

Being Jews, those with whom Jesus lived and to whom He preached understood the necessity of having prophets in their midst. Yahweh normally worked through prophets. God's will was conveyed to people by His positioning prophets among them.

That's why Sunday's first reading is so significant (Dt 18:15-20). Though we usually think of Moses as a leader and liberator, the community he led and freed from slavery also emphasized his prophetic ministry. Like all prophets, he was their conscience: the person who pointed out the future implications of their present actions. Without prophets, they would wander aimlessly through life, uncertain of the direction Yahweh wanted them to go.

As Moses is dying, they're no longer worried about freedom. Moses had been Yahweh's agent in achieving their liberation. That job had been taken care of. What they'd miss most would be Moses' prophetic input in their daily lives.

Because of his imminent death, they could only fall back on Yahweh's promise to "raise up for you a prophet like [Moses] from among your kin, and put my words in his mouth." In other words, God will see to it that they'd always have prophets in their communities.

No wonder Jesus' first disciples often reflected on that passage when they tried to figure out the role He was playing in their lives.

Their original emphasis on prophecy seems to be one of the reasons Mark chose an exorcism as Jesus' first miracle (Mark 1:21-28). As with the other three Gospels, the first miracle sets the evangelist's theme for his work. Because Mark believes Jesus' followers should imitate Him, Mark stresses that the number-one way we're to carry on Jesus' prophetic ministry is by eradicating evil wherever we find it.

That is symbolized by Jesus' getting rid of the evil demon that controls the man in the Capernaum synagogue. Though it's impossible to imitate Jesus' divinity, whenever we get rid of even the smallest evil in our lives, we're carrying on His human, prophetic ministry.

Going His way

Even Paul seems to be emphasizing Jesus' prophetic dimension when he writes about being "anxious about the things of the Lord" (I Cor 7:32-35). The Apos-tle believes we should let nothing hold us back from pointing our lives in the direction Jesus had pointed His own life.

Of course, when Paul advises people not to let marriage distract them from pursuing good, he's presuming Jesus will quickly return, something few of us presume today. As a good Jew, the Apostle thought no one should live a long, natural life and not be married. But, at this point in his ministry, he simply didn't think anyone would live a long, natural life.

The recently deceased Catholic reformer, Patty Crow-ley, once perfectly summarized prophetic discipleship: "I say the only important thing is Jesus' message, and the rest of the rules are for the birds. So give food to the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, help the sick and visit those in prison. That's what I do."

(1/26/06)












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