Today we have a feast of scriptural texts about our prophetic vocation: Jer. I, 4-5, 17-19; I Cor. 12, 31-13 13; Lk 4, 21-30.

Years ago, I froze in my tracks when I heard God’s words to Jeremiah: ‘Even before I formed you in the womb, I have known you; even before you were born, I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ There is, undeniably, a rare touch of intimacy here that makes us feel special; but do those words also place a heavy responsibility on our shoulders, holding us accountable for our role as prophets?

On the other hand, without that bolt from the blue, wouldn’t we end up becoming complacent, lukewarm, mediocre? When God’s voice resounds in our minds and hearts, we are in awe of His majesty and mystery. His declarations also provide the shot in the arm that we so badly need, timid and weak as we are, and at risk, too, like Jeremiah was. God’s promise, then, to make of us ‘a fortified city, a pillar of iron with walls of bronze…’ feels so good and changes everything.

There is no denying that without aid from above, we are nothing. Notice the distressing experiences Jesus underwent in his hometown Nazareth. At first, ‘all agreed with Him and were lost in wonder, while He kept on speaking of the grace of God.’ They just stopped short of recognising His divine origin. And no sooner had they heard hard truths proceeding from the mouth of the Son of God, they became indignant and were even ready to throw Him down the cliff.

That’s a huge eyeopener; the nature of the public ministry and the ways of the world can indeed be baffling. Yet, we have to keep going; we have nothing better to do than what God has whispered in our ears. He expects no superhuman effort, nor should we expect to achieve success as the world looks at it; it just suffices to exercise our apostolate where we are planted. The only ammunition we need to carry is Love. No language, no prophecy, no knowledge, nothing can get round the devious ways of the world as love can.

St Paul’s ode to love is one of the most sublime of Christian texts and Jeremiah’s testimony one of the most impressive as regards the Christian vocation. Interestingly, they are both quoted at nuptial masses – for, after all, marriage is a very special vocation! It is no doubt fraught with risk and challenges, but then, very few are known to have given up before the miracle happened. Jesus too didn’t give up on His Bride, the Church. Why should we give up on the Church, our Mother, and all that she teaches us?