Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Church is our Prophet and more powerful than we know (Sunday homily)

 The readings give us an opportunity to talk about what a prophet is.

But it’s also about who we are.

In the first reading, when Moses says a “prophet” 

would come after him, this doesn’t refer only to one person, but many. 

Of course, there were many prophets that came after Moses.

Many were great figures, like Isaiah, others tragic, like Samson.

Notice also, the Gospel shows us something 

you never saw anywhere before in Scripture. 

None of the Old Testament prophets 

ever exercised authority over demons. 

Only Jesus Christ does this. 

It’s a powerful sign that he is, of course, 

more than just a prophet, but God himself, become man.

A third point: after Jesus comes, there are no more prophets.

Instead, the Lord calls the Apostles; 

and they are the foundation of the Church.

They go out in his name and they, too have authority over demons.

To this day, this is an attribute of the Church.

Let me highlight that again: 

none of the prophets had this power over evil – but the Church does.

So that makes clear who has the authority in the world today,

Not only of a prophet, but of an Apostle, and really, of Jesus himself:

And it is his Body, the Church.

Now, I realize that as soon as I say that, 

people think of the weaknesses of so many bishops, 

so many disappointments, and it’s hard to believe what I’m saying. 

But I want to draw out a few things here.

First, don’t fail to see how much of Christ’s power is at work, right now,

through the Church.

Every time a baby is baptized, evil is cast out.

Every confession does the same.

Meanwhile, every day the Mass is offered 

and the Word of God is shared, 

both at Mass and in so many other ways.

And there is nothing more powerful 

than the Mass and the Word of God.

When you pray, you are as powerful as you will ever be.

That’s true because of the Holy Spirit you received in baptism!

It’s funny, in a way, because when people underestimate 

the reality of the spiritual power at work in the Church, 

they are doing exactly what people did to Jesus himself! 

People will complain about the bishops not being tough enough, 

and I’m not arguing with you. 

But it strikes me as odd to say, “because the bishops are weak, 

I’m turning away from what is really strong about the Church” – 

and that is the sacraments.

Here’s another point. If the Church is weak in many ways,

blame the bishops or the priests, sure; 

but the Church is 99% laypeople. 

You are where the bishops and priests come from. 

I’m not excusing leaders for not leading;

but so many people say, “oh father, 

if you just say something, people will do what you tell them.”

Oh, I wish I had that power! But I don’t!

It’s so much easier to say, it’s the bishops, it’s the priests, 

it’s the media, it’s big business, it’s the government…

But I think G.K. Chesterton got it right.

When asked, “What’s wrong with the Church?” He said, “I am.”

None of us has any hope of fixing what’s wrong in other people.

What you and I can do – and what we hate to do, 

that’s why we’d rather point elsewhere – is to change ourselves!

So if you want the Church to be a more powerful prophet in the world,

you need look no further than the mirror.

You and I both.

If you want to be spiritually powerful, if you want to combat evil,

Go to confession. 

Make your morning offering every day.

Your battle for daily holiness – and mine – 

is the front lines, it’s not somewhere else.

Of course, this is often tedious and feels pointless.

The soldier in the trenches can easily say, 

“It doesn’t seem like we are getting anywhere, 

none of this makes any sense” – 

right up until the day the war is finally won.

There is a Prophet in our world. It’s Us! It’s you.

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