The Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s first reading mentions what hardships the prophet Jeremiah had to endure, and the Gospel speaks of our duty of witnessing to Christ in the world. Both are reminders that all members of the People of God are potentially prophets and that all should play some part in handing on the truth about God. In a sense, we are all successors to Jeremiah and to the apostles, whose vocation it was to share Christ’s message with the world.
Not all Christians have equal opportunities to act as spokespersons for God. Bishops and priests have it as their official, vocational duty to encourage and teach the faithful in the way of the Gospel. Their difficult but worthwhile task is to hand on Christ’s teaching faithfully, and correct any errors that threaten the integrity of the traditional Christian doctrine or ethical standards. Like Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets, they remind their people of God’s revealed will and of the high moral standards God asks of us. And like the prophets, ordained Christian ministers can often expect criticism and opposition, just for doing their job.
Theologians too have an important work to fulfil in the Church, to study the revealed truth, and then link that traditional teaching with modern knowledge and insights, so as to honestly apply the Christian message to new problems. To help them in this daunting work they have the light of the same Holy Spirit who guided the prophets of old, provided they do their research not as masters but as servants of the word of God. However, it is not only priests and theologians who have the prophetic role towards God’s people. The Second Vatican Council taught that every Christian should give a living witness to Christ, at least through living a life of faith and charity and by joining in worship and prayer.
This is not such an easy task. The spirit of today’s society, the example of our contemporaries, and the irreligious mood of much of the media do not always foster God-fearing attitudes or encourage sound moral standards. Christians today are not generally persecuted for showing faith in Christ and his Gospel, but when she or he lives according to this teaching they will be swimming against the tide of a materialistic culture and will not find the going easy. Jesus warns that being a Christian will cost sacrifice and suffering. We are bound to face opposition from a world that does not gladly submit to the word of God, that makes so many demands on human nature. But there is real satisfaction, too, in standing up for the truth of things. In the centre of their souls, prophetic people have the happiness of working with the Lord, who is the ultimate truth on whom we all depend. (www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie)