Homily: We Can Be Prophets

May 1, 2019

I delivered the following homily in 2015 on the same gospel we read today…

God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life. (John 3:16-21)

Most of us have seen him many times. If you haven’t seen him, just watch. He can be found with a painted face or a rainbow colored wig in the end zone of nearly every college or professional football game. He is occasionally chased by security across a baseball diamond during a nationally televised game. He will pop up just about anywhere that people will see him or cameras will be present. He has even been on an episode of The Simpsons.

I am talking about 3:16 Guy. He is the one waving a sign with the words John 3:16 written in marker, or wearing a t-shirt with the same John 3:16 message.

Today’s Gospel includes this famous scripture passage. It is John 3:16, and it reads: God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

3:16 Guy has done his part by taking this message out into the world.

This message, presented in the midst of a fiercely competitive athletic contest, offers an interesting dichotomy. Sixty or seventy thousand people are packed into the stadium, cheering at the top of their lungs. There is nothing more important than winning that game. Then the camera catches 3:16 Guy holding his sign, a subtle reminder to everyone that this game pales in comparison to what is, or what should be, most important in their lives – the knowledge that Jesus lived and died for us.

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about 3:16 Guy this past week. I think he fascinates me because he is so different from me.

I cannot imagine ever painting my face or wearing a rainbow-colored wig for any reason, and certainly not out in public or to a ballgame. A foam finger would be over the top for me.

Yet there he is, 3:16 Guy, painted face and rainbow wig, holding his sign and making sure the message gets out.

A couple of questions emerge: What is his motivation? Does he care that people point at him, or that many make fun of him?

In the first reading, from 2 Chronicles, we heard: Early and often did the Lord God send his messengers to them…but they mocked the messengers of God…and scoffed at his prophets.

We know about the prophets of the Old Testament. While a few enjoyed acceptance, many were rejected; some were even killed. Being a prophet was not easy work. Maybe that’s why we don’t see many prophets today. Or do we?

God anointed prophets for thousands of years, to ensure that His message would be heard. Did He suddenly stop? Or are people such as 3:16 Guy modern day prophets? A prophet is a messenger of God, a person who speaks for Him. He or she witnesses to God, and calls people to conversion. So the short answer is, “Yes, he is a modern day prophet.” The longer answer is, “Yes, he is a modern day prophet…and so are we.”

3:16 Guy is a modern day prophet, and so are we.

At your baptism you were marked with oil as a sign that you are consecrated to God and anointed by the Holy Spirit. Your anointing also was a sign that you are joined to Christ and share in his threefold mission as priest, prophet, and king.

It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Christ establishes the faithful as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith and the grace of the word. Lay people evangelize, that is, they proclaim Christ by word and testimony of life.”

What does that mean? It means we are prophets, and we have work to do. It doesn’t mean that we will all be prophets in the same way. 3:16 Guy has his way, but his way won’t work for me. There are other ways to do the work of a prophet as the Catechism directs us, that is, to “proclaim Christ by word and testimony of life.”

How can we act as a prophet, proclaim Christ, “by word”?

  • We do this when the words we choose lift up and affirm rather than ridicule or demean.
  • We do this when we speak up for those who don’t have a voice – the unborn, the homeless, the imprisoned, the poor, and the forgotten.
  • We do this when we speak up to correct an injustice or defend the weak.
  • We do this when we participate in the Mass, praying and singing in full voice.
  • We do this when we share our faith with our children, not leaving their formation to chance.

How can we act as a prophet, proclaim Christ, “by testimony of life”?

  • We do this when we serve others with a smile on our face.
  • We do this when we are present to others and attentive to their needs.
  • We do this when we attend the March for Life, gather in front of Planned Parenthood, take an active role in our parish, or involve ourselves in mission work at home or abroad.
  • We do this when we take advantage of opportunities to grow our faith through retreats, adult education, or scripture study.

Any time we say or do something that lets people know that Christ is central to our lives, we are prophets.

John 3:16 – God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

An important message.

Paint your face, put on your wig, and grab your sign. Proclaim Christ by word and testimony of life. Do whatever you need to do to get the work done, to fulfill your role as prophet.

I’m not sure I could ever be 3:16 Guy, but I like him and I think we need him. And I know he needs our help.

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