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Messianic Prophecies and Their Utility in Evangelization

Our Lord Himself, His apostles, and the first evangelists frequently make use of the prophetic witnesses in the O.T. Scriptures in their arguments and their preaching. Thus, Our Lord taught the Pharisees — who considered the Messiah to be only a human king, instead of the divine Son of God and Lord of David — that David himself had prophesied otherwise.

I: Christ is the Lord of David and the Son of God. David in Spirit calls Him as Lord:

Mat 22:[41] And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, [42] Saying: What think you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him: David’s. [43] He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: [44] The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? [45] If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?[46] And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

Quoting His ancestor according to the fleshly king David, who had written Ps. 109:1 some 1,000 years earlier, Our Lord proves to the Pharisees from prophecy that Christ is Divine. He was not, as they thought, just a human person, but a Divine Person, who was made flesh (Jn. 1:1–14) in the fullness of time for our sake, the true Son of God who became Son of Man.

Question: Why the sad state of Catholic evangelism in the post–Vatican II Church?

What explains the present sad and sorrowful state of Catholic Evangelism in the world today? We hardly evangelize non-Christians successfully, and we often see Catholics de-Christianized, secularized and “evangelized” by the false gospel of liberal worldliness.

Could a reason be that we have departed from the example of the apostles and saints in beginning the proclamation of the Gospel with historical references to Messianic prophecies?

Let’s look at how St. Paul preached. In the Book of Acts, we read, in Acts 9:20: “And immediately he preached Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” And Acts 18:5: “And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was earnest in preaching, testifying to the Jews, that Jesus is the Christ.”

And so on likewise ’til the end of Acts, during St. Paul’s Roman imprisonment, Acts 28:23: “And when they had appointed him a day, there came very many to him unto his lodgings; to whom he expounded, testifying the kingdom of God, and persuading them concerning Jesus, out of the law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning until evening.”

II: The Holy One will enter Hades in soul. His Body will not see corruption at all.

Similarly, we know well of St. Peter’s preaching on that First Pentecost Sunday, when 3,000 souls entered the Kingdom of God, the Church, and were baptized. Acts 2: “[25] For David saith concerning him: I foresaw the Lord before my face: because he is at my right hand, that I may not be moved. [26] For this my heart hath been glad, and my tongue hath rejoiced: moreover my flesh also shall rest in hope. [27] Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. [28] Thou hast made known to me the ways of life: thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. [29] Ye men, brethren, let me freely speak to you of the patriarch David; that he died, and was buried; and his sepulchre is with us to this present day. [30] Whereas therefore he was a prophet, and knew that God hath sworn to him with an oath, that of the fruit of his loins one should sit upon his throne. [31] Foreseeing this, he spoke of the resurrection of Christ. For neither was he left in hell, neither did his flesh see corruption.” St. Peter is quoting Ps. 15:9–11, a magnificent prophesy of the Resurrection of the Holy One of the Lord. His soul God would not leave in Hades, showing it would return to the Body, and His Body would not see corruption, showing it would undergo a Glorious Resurrection. The Apostolic example serves as a calling to the Church to make use of the prophetic witnesses in the Scriptures in order to see abundant fruits from the harvest.

III. The Suffering Servant Who offers His Life like a Lamb to make Atonement for Sin.

Seven hundred years before Christ’s Incarnation, the mighty Prophet Isaiah had a wondrous vision of Christ’s Passion: “[5] But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.”

[6] All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. [7] He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.” (Isa. 53:5–7)

If Christ will be risen, such that “His Sepulchre shall be Glorious” (Isa. 11:10), when “the Lord shall set his hand the second time to possess the remnant of his people” (Isa. 11:11), it is manifest that Christ must have died first. This notion of Christ as Suffering Servant, who gloriously rises such that His Body will not see corruption and His Sepulchre will be Glorious, did not fit with the political conception of the Messiah as a military leader that the Jews were expecting. We Catholics now know the Truth, and very many Jews have converted to Christ on reading Isaiah. The Christ was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. He would offer His life as the Suffering Servant and Lamb of God in order to be an Atoning Sacrifice for all sin. This is prophesied in Isaiah 53, the fourth of four Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah (for others, see 42:1–10; 49:5–10; 50:4–10).

St. Philip explained this to the Ethiopian in Acts 8:31–35:

[31] Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. [32] And the place of the scripture which he was reading was this: He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb without voice before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth. [33] In humility his judgment was taken away. His generation who shall declare, for his life shall be taken from the earth? [34] And the eunuch answering Philip, said: I beseech thee, of whom doth the prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man? [35] Then Philip, opening his mouth, and beginning at this scripture, preached unto him Jesus.

Christ, the Son of God, was pre-announced as being born of an Immaculate Virgin.

This is prophesied in Isa. 7:14. It is cited by St. Matthew the Apostle (1:23) “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

Even the prophecy made thousands of years before Christ’s Incarnation by God Himself, and recorded by the Prophet Moses in Genesis some 1,500 years prior, implies that Christ will be born of a virgin, for it speaks of the “Seed of a Woman,” implying He will be born of a woman alone without any human father.

Christ’s institution of the Melchizedek priesthood and of the perpetual sacrifice.

The Holy Fathers often point to Mal. 1:11 in dialogue with the Jews (e.g., St. Irenaeus, St. Justin — even the Didache does so). Mal 1:10: “Who is there among you, that will shut the doors, and will kindle the fire on my altar gratis? I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts: and I will not receive a gift of your hand. [11] For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.” This passage clearly foretells the Holy Mass, the adorable sacrifice of the Altar. This sacrifice will be offered in every Gentile place from dawn to dusk, while God will receive no more sacrifice in Jerusalem, because their Temple would be destroyed in 70 A.D.

Ps. 109:4 says Christ will institute the priesthood of the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a great priest who had blessed the patriarch Abraham. Gen. 14:18:

But Melchisedech the king of Salem, bringing forth bread and wine, for he was the Priest of the Most High God [19] Blessed him, and said: Blessed be Abram by the most high God, who created heaven and earth. [20] And blessed be the most high God, by whose protection the enemies are in thy hands. And he gave him the tithes of all.

Another question: Messianic prophecies are great for evangelism of the Jewish people. But are they useful when speaking to others, especially e.g. atheists and agnostics?

Well, they can still serve as an introduction to the Gospel — especially because everyone knows, even atheists admit, and it can be proved historically that the Old Testament prophecies were written down centuries before Christ. The Jews have always expected the Messiah to come for thousands of years, and these Old Testament passages also bear witness to it.

The First Vatican Council tells us this:

4. Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God’s will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.

5. Hence Moses and the prophets, and especially Christ our lord himself, worked many absolutely clear miracles and delivered prophecies; while of the apostles we read: And they went forth and preached every, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it [Mk 16:20]. Again it is written: We have the prophetic word made more sure; you will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place [2 Pet:1:9].

And in the Oath against Modernism, the Church teaches:

Secondly, I accept and acknowledge the external proofs of revelation, that is, divine acts and especially miracles and prophecies as the surest signs of the divine origin of the Christian religion and I hold that these same proofs are well adapted to the understanding of all eras and all men, even of this time.

So we know that prophecies are signs of divine revelation and proofs of supernatural origin that the Holy Spirit can use during our preaching of the Gospel to help souls come to Christ.

A final prophecy — the Church’s mission to old Israel will ultimately succeed in the end!

As St. Benedict’s Center shows, the apostles and fathers have prophesied the return of the Jewish people to Christ one day:

The Old Testament contains several prophecies of the end-times conversion of the Jews. The Prophet Osee says this: “The children of Israel shall sit many days without king and without prince and without sacrifice, and without altar, and without ephod and without theraphim. And after this the children of Israel shall return, and shall seek the Lord their God and David their king: and they shall fear the Lord, and His goodness in the last days” (Osee 3:4-5). There are two parts to this prophesy. The first is that the Jews will be without king, prince, sacrifice, altar, ephod, and theraphim. This is a reference to the loss of civil kingship and sacrificing priesthood among the Jews. Regarding this part of the prophecy, Saint Augustine comments, “Who is there who does not see in this a portrait of the present state of the Jewish people?” The second part of the prophecy involves the return of the Jews, about which, Saint Augustine says this: “Nothing can be clearer than this prophecy, in which David stands for Jesus Christ [since He], says the Apostle, is born of the line of David, according to the flesh” (cited in The Kingship of Christ and the Conversion of the Jewish Nation, by Father Denis Fahey, pgs. 101-2) … Saint Cyril of Alexandria says this: “Towards the end of time, Our Lord Jesus Christ will effect the reconciliation of His former persecutor Israel with Himself. Everybody who knows Holy Scripture is aware that, in the course of time, this people will return to the love of Christ by the submission of faith[.] … Yes, one day, after the conversion of the Gentiles, Israel will be converted, and the Jews will be astonished at the Treasure they will find in Christ. (Commentary on Genesis, Bk. 5)

Let us pray and work for this conversion!

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