Tuesday, January 27, 2015

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2015

Since the close of the Christmas season we’ve been following Jesus as he begins his ministry.  We’ve seen him Baptized by John, we’ve seen him gathering his first Apostles (Andrew, Simon-Peter, James and John), and this week we continue our journey as Jesus begins to preach, teach, and heal.  Jesus has many different titles, but this week we focus on three:  Prophet, Teacher, and Lord.

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

First, so that we have a clear understanding of what it means to be a prophet, our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy tells us.  In our passage Moses says to the people that a prophet is one like himself… someone chosen by God to speak for God.  Now upon hearing this you might ask why God can’t speak for himself?  Addressing that exact point Moses continues by reminding the people that it was they themselves who requested that God speak through an intermediary… through a prophet.  It was at Mt. Horab where God initially spoke to the people, but His voice so frightened them that they asked that it be only Moses to hear the voice of God.  From that moment on , God allowed Moses (and all the prophets who followed) to speak to us on his behalf.  But beware… God also warns them that if a prophet’s words stray from those of God, he will surely die.

Our Psalm response sings “if today you hear my voice, harden not your hearts.”  This idea plays well into the calling of a prophet, who in fact hears God’s voice, but it also recognizes that we who hear God’s voice through the prophets can find that message difficult.  To that the Psalm reminds us that God is our rock of salvation whom deserves our praise.  It also reminds us that there was that time at Massah and Meribah where we didn’t trust the message, and thus a  mistake we should not repeat.

Our second reading continues our journey through Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians.  Though not directly related to our other readings, Paul’s message, like our Psalm, reminds us to stay focused on the Lord.  As we examine this reading, as we hear Paul teaching us about the ways of married and unmarried men, married and unmarried women, and how they should act.  It’s passages like this, when they reach our 21st century ears, can make us feel very uncomfortable, and in fact allow us to feel that Paul is completely out of touch with our reality and thus diminishing the value of the message as irrelevant for our age.  As with all scripture, however, we need to give it deeper study to find the relevant truth.  In this case, Paul is reminding us that as our lives more busy, we become more focused on the moment… on the here and now.  This allows us to become too easily distracted from our higher commitment to God.

Our Gospel from Mark continues where we left off last week.  After having gathered his first Apostles, he goes to Capernaum and teaches in the Synagogue.  We see Jesus as “rabbi” or “teacher.”  But then we here how everyone was amazed by his teaching, with an authority like that of a prophet.  If that were not enough, a possessed man in the synagogue tries to rebuke Jesus.  Here Jesus confronts the unclean spirit, and by his position as Lord, causes the unclean spirit to flee.  This particular story shows us that Jesus has the qualifications to take on this mission of spreading the Gospel, and is indeed a teacher and a prophet who speaks with the authority of the Lord.

Final Thoughts:
When we hear stories like this from this week’s Gospel, it’s easy for us to feel intimidated.  We see the ability of Jesus not only to impress the crowd with his teaching and prophecy, but chasing away demons in the process.  Already, still at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel story, we see that Jesus is pretty impressive.  A hard act to follow.  Yet that is exactly what we are called to do… to carry on the mission.  I’ve heard it many times… “I’m not Jesus… I can’t do that.”  But we too easily forget that Jesus didn’t pass on this responsibility to just one person… he passed it on to all of us… his entire Church.  Just as the Apostles had each other, and the many disciples that followed after them, we are not alone in our mission to spread the Gospel.  We do it with the rest of the Church around us.

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