28 January 20184 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - Mark 1:21-28

A man was crippled. Christians visited her. They chatted with her. Then it was time to go. They said, "We will pray for you." The woman replied, "I can do my own praying. But if you want to help me, you can wash the dishes and take out the dog." Mark's Gospel describes not only the opening of the teaching ministry of the Nazarene but also His first recorded miracle. This is a a Gospel double-header. Mark gives two Jesus tales for the price of one. Incidentally, Newsweek reveals that more than 80% of people are convinced God performs miracles and about half are convinced they have seen divine intervention in their lives. The clever plan of the Master was to get as many invitations as possible to speak in Galilean synagogues. He wanted to get His message out on the wires a.s.a.p. He was a master of marketing. Mark's Gospel tells us He preached in synagogues seventeen different times. We are talking about Operation Saturation. The first thirty years of His life Jesus worked with His rough carpenter hands. Now He was about to work with His golden tongue. Mark does not tell us what Jesus taught. We cannot fault him. The blame is Peter's. He was an eyewitness or, better, an earwitness. It was he who dictated his memoirs to Mark, who may have been his son. Remember Peter was married. And possibly Peter could neither read nor write. Peter does tell us, however, through Mark that Jesus upset people's minds with His teaching.

Whatever the message was, it staggered His audience. It was not the usual canned material that they were so often subjected to. His words must have danced across the airwaves like blazing fragmentation grenades. One hint of an explanation is found in Mark's words: "He taught with personal authority and not as the Scribes taught." The scholars of the day would preface their remarks with such lines as "The rabbi says..." or "It is alleged..." or "It is commonly taught..." That was not the Nazarene's style. He did not tell His audience what others were teaching. Rather, He tackled questions with authority. One did not hear Him say, "It may be..." but rather "Amen, amen I say to you..." He required no credentials beyond Himself. If one does not subscribe to a divine Jesus, one must put Him down as a most arrogant person. Note that His audience did not put Him down as such. They felt chills run up their spines as He spoke. They sensed they were in God's presence. At this point, Mark changes directions. The Christ is half way into His talk and a sick fellow rudely interrupts. He has no time for Jesus' teachings. He wants his health returned. Check out the Teacher's reaction. He does not lay the man out for bad manners.

He does not say, "See me after my lecture." Nor does He say, "Tell your symptoms to my disciples." He stops His talk in mid-sentence, perhaps mid-syllable, and cures the sick fellow. What message is Mark telegraphing to us? Firstly, the Master is backing up His message with divine power. He is, as college students say, a Hot Ten. Secondly He reveals He is as much interested in people's bodies as their souls. He is concerned with the whole person. Check the Gospels. You'll never find Jesus refusing a sick person a cure. The Lord Jesus is endorsing the dictum that reads, "Before you can put grace into people's souls, you must first put food into their stomachs." Incidentally, there are thirty million hungry people in the US alone. Many million are children. Many Christians forget this point. Theirs is a telephone booth Theology or, better, Meology. There is room in that tight kiosk for only God and themselves. Other people, especially hungry or sick ones, are on their own. No wonder George Bernard Shaw said, "Beware the person whose God is only in the skies." If your Christ is only in the skies, think again. "If you haven't any charity in your heart," quipped Bob Hope, "you have the worst kind of heart trouble." Jesus was not afraid of getting involved in the nitty gritty of people's lives. He worked with His hands more often than He spoke with His mouth. Mark is saying to us, "If you want to measure what kind of a Christian you are, count up what you did for the crippled man today. You are either a Bible or a libel." Each of us should be God's letter of introduction to a despairing world. Charles Dickens wrote, "No one is useless in the world who lightens the burden of it for someone else."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Authority In today's Gospel reading the Sacred Writer, the Holy Spirit, speaks about the authority of the Lord. The reading is taken from the first chapter of the earliest of the Gospels, the Gospel of Mark. Jesus begins to teach in Capernaum. The people are held spellbound because he spoke with authority, not like the scribes. A man comes before Jesus who is in the hand of the power of evil. Jesus makes the devil come out of the man. The bystanders are amazed because Jesus has such authority. What do we mean when we speak about the authority of the Lord? What do we mean when we talk about authority in general? What ways do we exercise authority? What ways do we exercise the authority of the Lord? The word authority comes from the Latin word auctoritas. The basic meaning of this Latin word is creator. The word author also comes from this word. A writer can look at his or her work, an essay, a short story, a novel, a poem, a non-fiction study, whatever, an author can look at this work and say, "This is my creation." The government recognizes that the author has rights over his or her creation. When we talk about the authority of the Lord, we recognize that He is the Creator, or Author of the Universe.

He has the power to govern the universe. Just as an author can determine what takes place in the short story he or she writes, God can determine what takes place in the universe He has created. When we talk about authority in general, we speak about the power a person has received to determine the actions of another person or a group of people. Society creates laws to protect its citizen and then gives authority to the police to enforce these laws. For example we give the police the authority to stop our cars if we are driving at 54 mph on a street where the speed limit is posted as 40 mph. However, as the source of authority, we can change the laws. If we change the speed limit on the same road to 55 mph, the policeman no longer has the right to stop us if we are going 54 mph. In general, authority is intimately connected with its source. All authority is by nature transitional, that is, all authority except that authority which comes from the Lord.

In the Gospel of Mark, the people were amazed because they had never experienced someone speaking with such authority. Jesus held people spellbound because God gave Him the authority to teach the truth. This authority would never be removed from Jesus because Jesus was intimately united to his Father, the source of the authority. We share in the authority of the Lord to the extent that we are united to the source of this authority. When we are confirmed we receive the power, the authority, to defeat evil in the world and to lead others to Jesus, the source of all truth. This authority is given to us by God. God can remove this authority and will remove this authority if we refuse to stay intimately united to him. I hope our young people who recently were confirmed, our parents who need to direct their children, and all of us, myself included, understand the gravity of this. God has entrusted us with his authority only to the extent that we allow him into our lives.

That is the reason why the Church is adamant that we attend Church regularly and receive the sacraments regularly. We need to have union with God so we can bring his authority, his power to the world. The crowd was spellbound because Jesus spoke with authority, not like the scribes and pharisees. People are no different now than they were then. People want to hear the real Word of God, and feel the presence of God in the words of the speaker. We can do this. We have the authority to do this. People can witness the Word of God present in our lives, and then choose to make the Word of God present in their own lives. We can do this. We can make Jesus' presence real for others. We have the authority to do this. People want to learn how to live their lives in such a way that when they conclude their lives they can stand before the Lord saying that they have made His Presence known in the world. We can do this. We have the authority, the power, to form others into Christian leaders. We have the authority, the power of Jesus Christ if only we stay united to him. Today we pray that we may remain united to the Lord, the source of the power and the authority we have received.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
4 Ordinary Time
Becoming a Missionary Disciple Week 3: Why Jesus' Authority is Different (January 28, 2018)

Bottom line: Today we see Jesus' authority. He is the author, the originator. He calls us to become missionary disciples. This is the third of five homilies on missionary discipleship. We began with the example of Andrew. Jesus calls him: Come and you will see. Andrew then goes to his brother Simon Peter with this news: We have found the Messiah - the one who fulfills our longing. Jesus, we saw, is the Lamb of God. He takes our sin and guilt upon himself, gives us a new beginning: repent and believe in the Gospel. We'll have those very words in two and half weeks when we receive ashes on our foreheads. Repent and believe in the Gospel. This Sunday we ask the question: Why should we repent? Why should we believe? Why should we follow Jesus?

To many people Jesus is a moral teacher along with Socrates, Confucius and the Buddha. So what? There are thousands of them, throughout history and even in our modern world. What makes Jesus different? We have the answer today. Jesus has authority. We follow Jesus because he has authority. About twelve centuries before Jesus, God promised he would raise up a prophet like Moses. You remember Moses - he gave the covenant, the law and the commandments. Jesus is the New Moses. He gives a new covenant, a new law, a new commandment. Jesus has authority. Some of you might wonder what exactly does authority mean. It comes from the Latin "auctor" - author, originator. Jesus has authority because he is the originator. On Christmas day we heard: In the beginning was the Word and Word was with God and the Word was God...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is the Word made flesh. As we say, true God and true man. That's why Jesus can command the demons. They are creatures made by God. For sure they have gone awry and do much harm. They use their freedom to oppose God. But ultimately they are creatures of God. So Jesus can say to them, "Quiet.

Come out of him." Jesus has the full authority of God. He is God. Jesus stands in a category apart from Socrates, Confucius, the Buddha or any great moral teacher. We can learn from them and admire them. I esteem Socrates but I do not have a living personal relationship with him - unless someday we meet in the Communion of Saints. So it is with all great teachers. Jesus on the other hand invites us this very day to an encounter - to enter a relationship with him, the most important relationship you will have with any person. Today we see Jesus' authority. He is the author, the originator. He calls us to become missionary disciples. Before him we face a choice. In the words of our Psalm, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Mark 1: 21–28
Gospel Summary

Jesus goes to the synagogue in Capernaum with four of his disciples where people are astonished that he teaches with such authority. A man in the synagogue, possessed by an evil spirit, recognizes Jesus as the "Holy One of God" who has come to destroy the spirits of evil. After Jesus casts out the evil spirit, the people in the synagogue are amazed at the power and authority that Jesus possesses, and go out to spread his fame throughout Galilee. Life Implications More of the implications of this passage may reveal themselves if we remember the narrative context into which Mark places it. After this cure of the demoniac, Jesus cures Simon's mother-in-law and many others afflicted either by illness or by evil spirits. It is with these acts of power done out of compassion for the needs of others that Jesus begins his public life. Immediately before, Mark has told us of the baptism of Jesus, with the Spirit descending upon him and the voice from heaven saying to him, "You are my beloved Son." (Mark 1: 11)

Jesus is then tempted by Satan not to trust that affirmation. After the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus goes to Galilee where he proclaims that the kingdom of God is at hand. He calls disciples to follow him, and together they go to the synagogue at Capernaum (today's gospel passage). The cure of the demoniac represents the beginning of the messianic age when the power of Satan's kingdom will at last be destroyed ("Have you come to destroy us?"). Jesus enters a world in which Satan reigns, teaches with the authority of God, and with compassion casts out evil spirits that hold people in bondage and fear. Christ's mission, begun here, will not be completed until the end, "when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power …

The last enemy to be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15: 24–26). Jesus called disciples to be with him as he began his mission at Capernaum; now he calls us to be with him as he continues his mission in the towns and cities where we live. The Spirit descends upon each of us at baptism, and a voice from heaven says to each of us, "You are my beloved." We, like Christ, will often be tempted by Satan not to believe these words when the power of evil seems to be invincible. We will also be tempted to use power and authority, not with Christ's compassion in service of others, but to advance our own reign. Later in his gospel, Mark talks about authentic Christian discipleship. Two disciples who were with Jesus at Capernaum (James and John) seem to have assumed that discipleship means enjoying positions of power. Jesus summoned all his disciples and explained his notion of power. He said that among the Gentiles, rulers make their authority felt and lord it over people. But, he added, among his disciples, whoever wishes to be great must be the servant of all. This was the notion of power that led Jesus to teach, to cast out demons, to cure illnesses, and finally to give himself up to death on a cross with the supreme power of love. "For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10: 45). Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Modern Gospel–Mark 1: 21 - 28

In this Gospel Mark speaks to us of the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Jesus had just called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow him, and the five of them continue on to Capernaum which was the home of Peter and Andrew, and most likely James and John. These four hometown men arrive with this stranger who had not yet preached, healed, expelled demons or raised the dead. Jesus arrives in town as just another stranger passing through, but he must be alright since he is with these four familiar men. We don't know how long he was in Capernaum, but he made an impression and was invited to teach in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark does not tell us what Jesus said, but rather tells us the effect it had on the assembly, they "were astonished."

He was seen as being a refreshing contrast to the scribes who spoke nice sermons, while Jesus spoke with authority. Jesus' presence and teaching in the synagogue was so powerful that it stirred up an unclean spirit in one of the men there. The outburst of the unclean spirit in which he revealed himself with fear that Jesus came to destroy them, ends with the unclean spirit pointing out to all that Jesus is "the Holy one of God." Jesus responds by rebuking the unclean spirit and casting him out A lesson for us is to be open to the presence and authority of Jesus in our lives and in the world. Jesus arrived in Capernaum as somewhat a stranger, yet the people there welcomed him and invited him to teach. Jesus should not be a stranger to us for we entered into a personal relationship with him on the day of our Baptism.

Through Baptism we should be able to recognize Jesus entering into our lives in Word and Sacrament, and he comes with authority. The Authority to teach us, guide us, and heal us, which help us to grow in holiness. He is not a stranger, but the presence of God with us: our Savior, brother and Lord. He is someone whose presence we should be able to recognize and stand in awe before him. We do know that it is Jesus who has authority and power to cast out demons. We should not be surprised when the Lord answers our prayers, whether they be for deliverance, health, a job, or whatever. When we pray we should do so with trust that the Lord hears our prayer, even those that seem so insignificant that we might be tempted not to bother God with them. In the Parable of the dishonest Steward Jesus tells us that, "The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones." (Luke 16:10)

We can apply this to ourselves with regards to how we approach the Lord in prayer: If we can entrust to the Lord our little needs, we will be able to entrust to him our greater needs. We will learn from experience how the Lord answers our little prayers like finding something that's lost, finding us a good parking spot, or sending a good Samaritan. Yes, some of these seem rather trivial, but I know of people who claim that they always get a good parking spot when they say a prayer. When we begin to trust the everyday little needs to God we will soon have the faith to trust in him to answer our big prayers. This all begins with our welcoming Jesus into our lives and inviting him to speak to us. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
4 Ordinary Time
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are still in the first chapter of St Mark's Gospel. So far, he has introduced John the Baptist and told us about the Baptism of Jesus and described how Jesus called his disciples. Now Mark begins to tell us about Christ's public ministry and he does this by giving us the example of a typical day. We have the first half of that typical day as our Gospel text today and we get the other half next Sunday. You will notice that this typical day is a Sabbath Day and it seems to be quite intentional that Jesus chooses the Sabbath Day to carry out most of his work. We know that this is going to be one of the most important bones of contention with the Pharisees and others. But, if you think about it, what could be more natural than that the Messiah should conduct much of his ministry on the main Holy Day in the week. By doing so he is giving honour to God but, of course, this means that he inevitably falls foul of the nit-picking and rule-obsessed Pharisees. This typical day begins in the synagogue where he exercised the ministry of teaching. His teaching is markedly different from the teaching of the rabbis. As we are told, ‘his teaching made a deep impression on them because he taught with authority.' The rabbis probably taught with reference to the Law. They would mostly be quoting from one text or another and trying to explain the differences between one rule and another. We know that in their discourses they would often appeal to various authorities and most of those they quoted would be more senior rabbis.

They cited these other opinions to underline the authenticity of their view and to give strength to their teaching. Jesus takes a completely different approach and never ever quoted another teacher to back up his assertions. He did not need to since he was the Son of God and the fountain of all authority. By not using other opinions to back up his teaching he causes the people to realise that he possesses a unique authority and his teaching convinces them absolutely. The people recognise that what Jesus is saying is something completely new and authoritative. They are deeply impressed and find themselves able to resonate at a profound level with his teaching. Although it doesn't actually say it in the text, most likely in the Capernaum Synagogue Jesus was using parables in his teaching as he invariably did elsewhere. This would have been another difference between Jesus and the rabbis the people were accustomed to. These parables brought a creativity and a relevance to his teaching because they were something that the people could easily relate to. This impression of authority that the people observed as they witnessed Jesus' first day of public ministry is also conveyed by the exorcism of the man possessed by an unclean spirit. In the Jewish world people were familiar with the ritual of exorcism. It generally involved the burning of some substance to create smoke which was used as a kind of fumigation of the unclean spirit.

This is mentioned in the Book of Tobit. But also, the one who carried out the exorcism usually recited a powerful incantation which invariably called on the names of David and Solomon to assist them. Both David and Solomon had carried out exorcisms and since the current exorcist did not have the authority to expel demons himself he would invoke their names and ancient authority to give weight to his actions. Jesus needs no fumes nor does he need to invoke other authorities. He expels demons simply by commanding them to leave their victim. What more could one need to recognise that in Jesus here is a person deeply imbued with authority from above. In the second half of this typical day he goes to the house of Simon and Andrew where he heals Simon's mother in law and then goes on to conduct many other healings and exorcisms. Early the next morning he is found in a solitary place having spent several hours in prayer. This then is presented by Mark as a typical day in the life of Jesus. It must have been a full and exhausting day and yet immediately Jesus says that they must go to the other towns in the neighbourhood in order that he can carry on his ministry in those places.

So, there is to be no let up for Jesus; he goes from place to place, he teaches, he heals, he casts out devils. Of course, as he continues his ministry a new element gradually enters and that is his controversy and disputation with the scribes and Pharisees. These conflicts become greater and greater and inevitably lead to his death on the Cross of Calvary. It is useful for us to reflect on this archetypal or characteristic day in Jesus' life. In considering it we realise the great depths of compassion he must have drawn on to face all those people who needed healing and exorcising. Those among us who work in the medical profession will surely recognise that they themselves are frequently exhausted in having to face hundreds of people in search of healing, day in day out. It cannot be easy for them and it cannot have been easy for Our Lord. The long day of teaching and healing must have drained him of everything he had, hence the need for several hours of prayer before dawn.

But the Divine Saviour is no slacker, he immediately starts to talk of going to the other towns to minster to the people living in those places. As we consider this typical day in Jesus' life, the question we are left with is how we spend our days. While acknowledging the fact that we have to earn our living and have many obligations, we still need to ask ourselves just how much of our day is spent in healing and teaching the truths of the Gospel. You might not think that you are qualified to be casting out devils, but let me suggest that you might be wrong on that one since fighting the evil one is the duty of every Christian. The key, of course, in Jesus life is that all this work was backed up with prayer. And by prayer what we mean is quality time communing with God, spending time alone with him deepening our relationship with the God we love. This is where Jesus drew his strength and it is exactly the same place from which we ought to draw our strength. The work of healing and teaching and exorcising is there to be done, more than ever before. Our task is to step up to the plate and follow the example of our Divine Master.

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