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{{vm.product.SpProduct.Article}} Thus Says the Lord
The Prophets in the Liturgy

Richard J. Clifford, sj

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All year long the prophets speak to us at Mass, often beginning their message with “Thus says the Lord.” They thunder. They comfort. They scold. They encourage. They sometimes speak in beautiful poetry, often sounding urgent, sometimes sounding strange. Their purpose was to reveal to the people what God expected, and now, over two and a half millennia later, they are still fulfilling that purpose. Although we can usually catch connections between the readings from the Old Testament prophets and the readings of the New Testament, most of us don’t know much about the actual situations the prophets were responding to when they wrote, or what it was like to be a prophet in the ancient world. Old Testament scholar Richard J. Clifford sj has written this book to help us understand the prophets and so draw more meaning from their words in the liturgy.

He begins with what we hear at Mass—with the way the lectionary presents the prophets to us now, in contrast to the way they were heard (seldomly) before the Second Vatican Council. The author explains how we can best interpret the prophets—in their own context and within the Christian tradition. Professor Clifford takes us into the ancient near east to explain the calling of the prophet. He introduces us to those who prefigured the prophets, such as Abraham and Moses, then to those we know from the many stories about them—Elijah and Elisha. He moves on to the many prophets who wrote as well as preached (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Baruch, Amos, and so forth), and then he zooms in on Isaiah, the prophet we hear from most often in the liturgy. In this survey, the author explains what is known about each prophet and the situation in which he worked, then discusses how the text associated with him is structured, its distinguishing features, and what parts of it appear in the lectionary. Finally, we learn how the prophets communicated effectively in their oral society, how they understood their mission, and how they understood God's purpose.

This brief but deep and sympathetic introduction to the prophets will help readers proclaim the prophets’ words with more empathy and understanding. It will fascinate Bible study and Scripture sharing groups, and it will help interested assembly members appreciate more fully the meaning of the prophets’ messages—for their audience and for us.