How to Be Equipped, Empowered and Enabled for the Work of God

User’s Guide to Sunday, Jan. 30

True prophets must be empowered by God’s word, the sacraments, prayer and holy fellowship, writes Msgr. Charles Pope.
True prophets must be empowered by God’s word, the sacraments, prayer and holy fellowship, writes Msgr. Charles Pope. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, Jan. 30, is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 1 Corinthians 13:4-13; Luke 4:21-30.


Prophets are those who speak for God. People-pleasing and other forms of human respect cannot supplant reverence for God and his truth. Prophets are willing to endure suffering and even death in order to proclaim God’s truth to an often-unappreciative audience. Today’s readings set forth certain principles for prophets. Let’s examine them. 

Prevenient nature of our call: God tells Jeremiah (and us), “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Yes, he knew, loved and made us in a way that prepared and equipped us for the work of being prophets.

Purview of our call: God tells Jeremiah (and us), “I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah himself did not journey beyond Israel, but since that time the word of the Lord uttered through him has reached every nation. Stay in your lane, and do your work, and remember that, through God’s grace, your influence can reach the nations.

Preparation of our call: The Lord tells Jeremiah (and us) to “gird our loins.” This is an ancient way of saying, “Roll up your sleeves.” In other words, prepare to work by assembling what you need and getting ready to expend effort. For us, this surely means daily prayer, weekly Eucharist and frequent confession. It means prayerfully reading God’s word and the teachings of the Church. It means keeping fellowship with the Church and with fellow believers. All of this equips, empowers and enables us for the work God has called us to do: be prophets.

Prescription of our call: The text says, “[T]ell them all that I command you.” In other words, leave nothing out; proclaim the whole counsel of God. Don’t just say what is popular or agrees with worldly thinking.

Power of our call: The text says: “Be not crushed on their account, as though I would leave you crushed before them.” A prophet needs to be strong, for people are stubborn and hesitant to change. A prophet also needs support, and thus the text says, “For it is I this day who have made you a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass …” True prophets must be empowered by God’s word, the sacraments, prayer and holy fellowship. 

Purity of our call: Jeremiah is told that the priests, kings and princes have all been corrupted and that he must speak the truth to them and summon them to repentance. It is perhaps easier to preach to the converted and to those who can exercise little authority over us. But speaking the truth to powerful people is often the unenviable lot of the prophet. 

Prize of our call: The text says, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

While we may face laughter, ridicule, persecution, setbacks and trials, what every true prophet announces will come to pass. History bears this out, and it will be made manifest on the Last Day. Darkness cannot prevail; it always gives way to the light. The Lord Jesus shows us this in today’s Gospel, even if only in a small way. The text says, “They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.” 

In the end, God always wins, and every true prophet is on the winning team.

Duccio’s ‘Pentecost’ (1308)

Pray the Pentecost Novena

The prayer recalls and invites Catholics to participate in the nine days that the Blessed Virgin Mary and the apostles spent in prayer after Christ ascended into heaven.