4th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Jesus The Expected Prophet.”
The first reading announces the coming of a prophet who will speak in the name of God.
The second reading presents an example of the ‘new doctrine’: the new value attributed to virginity, which is lived for the love and the service of God and of our brothers and sisters.
The Gospel tells us that this prophet is Jesus. He doesn’t communicate the word of God the way the rabbis used to do; his message is new and is proclaimed ‘with authority’. His word is effective and frees persons from the forces of evil that rule them.
To fulfil our prophetic role, we must put on the mind and heart of Jesus. Once we are immersed in the wisdom and love of Jesus, we are to speak out as the occasion demands and the Spirit moves. God speaks through us despite our shortcomings, hesitations and misgivings.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
In the first reading, Moses says to the people, “The Lord your God will raise up for you prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.” Moses is the example of a true ‘prophet’. The reading tells us that he is the intermediary between God and humans.
What kind of authority has the prophet? It depends; if he transmits what God told him faithfully, then his words must be accepted as the message of God; but if he spreads abroad his own ideas and views or invents things, then what he says is of no value and is not different from the talk of any other person. Maybe the prophet will say that he is speaking in the name of God, but in reality he will be defending the cause of dumb and deaf idols. Such a man says the reading, will die, that is, he will be unsuccessful. His words will carry no weight, and he will prophesy in vain.
There is no need for such meaningless tricks. No one needs to try and penetrate into the world of God like a thief, passing through a secret opening. It is the Lord who wants to address us and continues to speak to us through prophets. The Acts of the Apostles informs us that with the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost day, all the members of the Christian community became ‘prophets’. They were called to be like open ‘telephones’, listening to the voice of God and transmitting it immediately to the world. Such prophets must be able to interpret the life-events of every person, family and nation in the light of the Gospel. They are the persons that people must consult to know the way of God.
Are we true ‘prophets’? Are we efficient ‘telephones’, or are our lines always down? Are we letting our pride, self-interest, envy, greed for money and honours stand in the way and block off God’s word and thus prevent us from being true prophets? How can we discover whether a community is ‘prophetic’? How can we distinguish it from one that serves idols? Can a community be made up of prophets if its members seek privileges and praises, forgetting about the suffering of the poor? We cannot do without the word of God and his grace.
In the Old Testament, during periods when there were no prophets, people were trying to find out the will of God by going to diviners and using the wrong means. A person who is thirsty is ready to drink any kind of water, even if it is bad and unhealthy. If many still seek out the message of salvation from the wrong people, isn’t it because we Christians fail to be ‘prophets’?
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9.
The Psalm would be sung during processions to the Temple. On arrival, a temple prophet addressed the worshippers, urging them to listen to the voice of God. They were not to harden their hearts like their ancestors did, when they refused the word of Moses at Meribah. (Ex 17:7)
1 Corinthians 7:32-35.
Paul is never afraid to speak authoritatively. For him, though marriage is a good thing, given that everything might come to an end any day now, he wants people to be focused on God: ‘I want you not to have any preoccupations: the unmarried person is only preoccupied about how to please the Lord’. Paul does not claim to speak for God, but only for himself. The way he is called to serve the Lord is clearly assisted by a life of celibacy. Celibacy places those who live it in full in a very favourable position to serve the Lord. A virginity that separates a person from the rest of humankind and that causes one to withdraw into oneself is a false virginity. It will not make closer contact with God, and is likely to yield only loneliness and gloom. True virginity never alienates us from our brothers and sisters; it opens up the heart to love that is without limits and conditions.
Yet we have known many holy women and men who fully served the Lord within the context of the home and the market place. Nothing matters more than pleasing God. That is what will give us the authority to speak to our contemporary society.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus journeys with his disciples to Capernaum to begin his ministry. Jesus’ teaching is very different from that of the traditional religious teachers because it is accompanied by ‘authoritative action’. The Scribes and other religious teachers would support their teaching by quoting the Scriptures or Oral Tradition. They only taught what the tradition said about the Law and about God.
Jesus in his teaching refers directly to himself. At the beginning of the Gospel, Mark had told his readers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. This is why he does not need outside sources to support his teaching. He himself is the source of his teaching.
The first miracle Jesus works in the Gospel of Mark is the liberation of a man who was believed to have been possessed by an unclean spirit. The unclean spirit tries to prevent Jesus from performing the cure by calling his name, which in Hebrew mentality suggests having control over Jesus.
Those who saw Jesus perform the miracle that day were astonished. Astonishment and wonder open the mind to the possibility of a greater life. Science in today’s world breeds the expectation that everything can be measured, taken apart and controlled. A sense of the wonder of faith lifts us beyond the circumstance of today. We glimpse the broader canvas of life and begin to live with the mystery of faith.
Jesus’ command is a strong one. In this new era Jesus has authority to give orders to the forces of evil. The unclean spirit has to obey and leave the man. This confirms the power of the word of Jesus, which people had already perceived in his teaching. From the very first miracles the readers already know that the victory will not be in the camp of Satan and his forces but in that of Jesus and his followers. Before anyone else, the unclean spirit recognizes that Jesus is both human and divine. He knows that Jesus is the ‘Holy One of God’. Although the unclean spirit is correct, Jesus does not allow him to make his identity known.
Often Jesus orders people to be silent having healed them. This is called the ‘Messianic Secret’. How can we understand Jesus’ insistence on secrecy? Jesus probably felt that the disciples needed first to be educated in their understanding of him and his mission. He therefore played down the importance of his miracles because people might see him merely as a great miracle worker. They might miss the real point of his mission, which is to ‘give his life by dying on the Cross and bring salvation through his Resurrection’. Healing and curing are only small indications that God’s Kingdom has come among us. The real sign of the new age will be Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.
It is into this line of prophets that Christians have been baptized. (We are all “priests, prophets and kings”, as Scripture says: Priest – the right to worship, Prophet – to witness, King – responsibility for others.) How are we to respond to this baptismal heritage? First we must accept that our baptism is indeed a challenge to speak in God’s name. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” These words are addressed to all followers within his community. Second, to fulfil our prophetic role, we must put on the mind and heart of Jesus, for as prophets we are to speak in his name, not our own.
Once we are immersed in the wisdom and love of Jesus, we are to speak out as the occasion demands and the Spirit moves. This won’t always be easy, but it can be done. For God speaks through us despite our shortcomings, hesitations and misgivings.
How do Jesus’ disciples behave nowadays? Are they aware that they possess the same power and the same authority over all ‘unclean spirits’? Do they know that every time the word of the Gospel is proclaimed clearly, it is like an irresistible attack on some ‘devil’? Do Christians in our communities feel powerless in front of some ‘devil’ that seems too strong to be confronted?
Are our Christian communities prophetic only in words, or do they continue the fight that Jesus started against all that enslaves humans?
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The ‘Acts of the Apostles’ informs us that with the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost day, all the members of the Christian community became ‘prophets’. They were called to be like open ‘telephones’, listening to the voice of God and transmitting it immediately to the world. Let us spend some time meditating on the readings and commentaries for today to find out how we can best carry out this calling.
Mon. … Are we developing that special relationship with the Father to help us to begin to know his ‘Way’ and his ‘Truth’ and the ‘Life’ he wishes us to live? This is vital if we are to become intermediaries for his word and help reveal God’s plan of salvation, the ‘Good news’ to all who seek it.
Tues. … In our communities there are those who seek the truth and answers to the many unknown issues to life. Do we stand by and watch them struggle and find their way to diviners, fortune-tellers and various cults serving powers other than of the One True God? Do we remain silent, being politically correct, or do we speak out against these charlatans and false prophets?
Wed. … The Psalm tells us of a Temple prophet urging worshippers to listen to the voice of God. Today let us too listen carefully for the voice of God while we embrace the Scriptures so that our hearts may be softened by his love and compassion and transmit that same love and compassion to those who are lost.
Thurs. … We are all “prophets, priests and kings”, as Scripture says. How are we to respond to this baptismal heritage? First we must accept that our baptism is indeed a challenge to speak in God’s name. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” These words are addressed to all followers within his community. Second, to fulfil our prophetic role, we must put on the mind and heart of Jesus, for as prophets we are to speak in his name, not our own. Let us serve God in the best way that he has called us to be. Let us today start focusing on serving God through the well-being of others.
Frid. … Do we fully realize that the greatest sign that ‘God’s Kingdom’ is among us is Jesus’ Resurrection from the Dead? It is into his death and Resurrection that we have been baptized and to share with all our baptized brothers and sisters a rising into a new life in Christ. Our baptismal heritage challenges us to speak out in God’s name when the need arises, no matter what the consequences may be.
Sat. … Today, let us start to feel confident that when we proclaim the Gospel in Jesus’ name there is no force too strong that cannot be overcome and no evil too powerful to be confronted.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that we may develop a true Christian relationship with You so that we may carry out Your plan that You have for each one of us. Help us to imitate Your Son, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, so that we may become the true messengers of Your Word that You created us to be.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.