Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 DT 18:15-20
Responsorial Psalm PS 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
- (8)If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.
Reading 2 1 COR 7:32-35
Alleluia MT 4:16
- Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light;
on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death,
light has arisen.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 1:21-28
Homily—January 27 & 28, 2018
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” That’s the first question put to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. It is really the core question of the Gospel. What are we to make of the fact that Mark puts that question in the mouth of an unclean spirit? To make matters worse, the demon got everything right by calling Jesus the Holy One of God and accusing him of having come to destroy evil spirits.
The unclean spirit shouts out “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” No human being, only the spirits call Jesus this during his earthly ministry. The only human being to call him “the Son of God” will be the centurion, and only after he has witnessed Jesus die on the cross. Jesus’ mission necessarily involves a confrontation with evil, suffering, and death, only after which his true identity as “Son of God’ can be proclaimed by a human being.
As we have it in this story, Jesus commands the evil spirit to come out of the man, and it obeys, though not without dramatic theatrics. The assembled people were understandably amazed And, not surprisingly, Jesus reputation spread.
The term “authority” is used twice in this story. Jesus teaching is not like the others, for he teaches with authority. Jesus spoke without citing various spiritual authorities in support of his teaching. His teaching combines clarity of vision and compelling experience. As if to demonstrate the authority Jesus wields, even the unclean spirit obeys him. If any wondered about his teaching authority, they need look no further than the man from whom the unclean spirit was expelled.
It is significant too that the disciples were with Jesus during this encounter. We see that no sooner had the disciples been called by Jesus to be his followers than did they encounter evil. The disciples are in relationship with Jesus and as such they witness the opposition he faces. Later they will encounter similar opposition. Even though the gospel does not tell the story, we, like those in Mark’s community know that many of Jesus’ disciples lost their lives too in confrontations with evil.
As we strive to live a Christian life we will still have encounters with evil, we will still experience challenges and hostility. But we are comforted in knowing that Jesus has authority over all.
Prophets challenge their listeners. They speak words that touch hearts and connect to their listeners’ everyday lives. Prophets remind the people not just who they are, but whose they are.
Jesus is seen as this kind of prophet, because he speaks with confidence and sincerity, challenging those who hear to a conversion of heart.
His words possess the primary purpose of softening hardened hearts, which often meets with resistance from listeners such as the scribes and the Pharisees. They resist Jesus’ words, not because they are false teachings, but because they make hearers stop and take notice of Jesus’ truthfulness.
Paul and Jesus want their listeners to be who they say they are by living who they say they are. This means they need to rid themselves of evil spirits still lurking in their hearts. This is done by concentrating on the covenant they made with God before anyone else or anything else. This can set us free from any evil inclinations that we find within us or outside of us.
St. John Vianney wrote “A fish never complains of having too much water, neither does a good Christian ever complain of being too long with the good God.”
I leave you with two questions to ponder. What can I set aside to be more aware of God’s nearness? In my life, how can I better reflect God’s generous love?