John the Baptist by Hieronymus Bosch • Wikimedia Commons •

4 Epiphany, January 28

Deut. 18:15-20 • Ps. 1111 Cor. 8:1-13Mark 1:21-28

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command” (Deut. 18:18). Like John the Baptist, who was a prophet and more than a prophet, anyone summoned to speak for God bears witness first of all to what the prophet is not. The prophet is not the one who is to come. The prophet’s words are not the Word. The prophet bears witness to the light, but is not the Light. This restriction in no way disparages the prophet’s role. Rather, the prophet’s humility and restraint heighten the force of every word that witnesses to the Word.

The prophet, a mere human, constructs his speech in fear and trembling, taking only words divinely placed, eschewing the speech of other gods, even the god of his own presumption (Deut. 18:20). The prophet, in the totality of his being, bears witness to the Word. Still, there will be moments when the prophet is confused by competing claims, when the voice that seems most divine is not, when a promise of what seems like life is death. This confusion, if faced with humility, honesty, and penance, will confirm that the prophet is not strong in his own strength, but in the word he meets and the words he is called to speak, and in all the risk of his vocation and his need for mercy.

God in Christ has called all people to take their part as prophets in the sense that the Spirit of the Word has been poured into our hearts. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18). “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Rom. 10:8). Though the word is near you and in your heart, and deeply secret, it is the same word that calls all things into being, the word incarnate and the Spirit of the incarnate Word. Thus, each new word addressed to a single soul comes from the mouth of the Father of ages. A new word in a new moment, therefore, necessarily looks back, feels the resonance of the whole gospel: “our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, the means of grace and the hope of glory” (The General Thanksgiving). Indeed, the word is the gospel, and so every seed of the word, however secret and personal, shares in the common faith of all who are in Christ. To be clear, St. Paul says, “that is, the word of faith that we proclaim” (Rom. 10:8).

Consider the implanted word as the One who calls all things into being. The deep eye of faith sees works of wonder, honor, majesty, power, and wisdom (Ps. 111). The heavens and the earth and all that are in them delight the eye and enrich the mind (Ps. 111:2). Ask the Word, “Why is there something and not nothing?” Then hear that God’s love is the cause of being, the guide of becoming, the goal and end without end. “Anyone who loves God is known by him” (1 Cor. 8:3). This passive knowing is love’s infusion.

The eye of faith sees something else: distortion, disorder, confusion, hatred, war. Faith sees evil and names it. The same Word shows love by rebuking, silencing, and casting out evil by miraculous pronouncement, by a bloody cross, and by Christ’s resurrection from the dead (Mark 1:25).

Look It Up
Read 1 John 1:1-4.

Think About It
The implanted word is a witness.

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