HOMILY FOR THE 4TH (FOURTH) SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 7-9; 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28
GOD COMMUNICATES WITH HUMANITY
I pray for you: May you continue to learn from the Lord Jesus and from those who have been entrusted with the duty to share God’s Good News with you! AMEN
Today’s readings focus on the power of authoritative teaching. The first reading announces the coming of a prophet who will speak in the name of God. The Gospel tells us that this prophet is Jesus. He does not communicate the Word of God the way the rabbis used to. Instead, his message is new and he proclaims it WITH AUTHORITY. His word is effective and frees us from the forces of evil that rules us. The second reading presents an example of the NEW DOCTRINE— the new value attributed to virginity which is lived for the love and at the service of our brothers and sisters.
I have been given the responsibility of sharing my faith, and I need to let people know the distinction between the Truth as has been handed down through the Word of God and church teaching, and the way I perceive it touching and affecting my life. I must not deviate from essential beliefs, but I am able to discuss possible ways of living out the faith while being true to what God has said.
In the First Reading, through Moses, God promises to send another prophet (spokesperson) who will teach with authority. In the passage from Deuteronomy, Moses is seen addressing the people as recalls the events that happened at the foot of Mt. Sinai (Horeb). At that time they had been overwhelmed by God’s authority, particular when God communicates directly with the people. The people no longer wanted to experience God personally. They would rather have God transmit information by means of a human spokesperson (prophet). Moses reassures them that God will continue to teach them by means of another human prophet, who, like Moses, will speak to the people on God’s behalf. Moses also addresses future false prophets who do not speak with God’s authority.
The psalm warns us to pay attention God’s message and to put them into action, unlike our ancestors in faith. Great problems have and will continue to happen to people when they harden their hearts to God’s Word.
In the Second Reading, Saint Paul conveys his thoughts about marriage, mindful that at that time in his ministry, he is convinced that Jesus will return imminently. He shares his views on human relationships in light of what he believes to be the immediate return of the Lord Jesus and the end of time. Since, in Paul’s mind, Jesus will be back in the very near future, Paul does not see any reason to become involved in relationships which distract one from being tuned into the ways of the Lord Jesus. Evidently, Paul was mistaken in thinking that Jesus would return during his lifetime. But, not everyone followed Paul’s suggestion of not marrying and having children, otherwise we would not be here today. Hahahahaha.
The Gospel presents us with Jesus’ teaching authority both by means of words and action. Today, we see Jesus’ teaching authority as He ministers in a Sabbath synagogue service in Capernaum. Not only does Jesus teach with His powerful words, but he teaches about God’s compassion and love as He exorcizes a demon from a possessed man. He also shows that His focus is to proclaim God’s Good News of salvation and not center the focus on Himself.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, God communicates the Truth in various ways and on different levels of importance. Most important and at the top of the divine teachings is God’s overpowering love for every member of the human race whom God has created. Equally important is the pre-eminence of Jesus’ relationship with His Father and my Father. The Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit, are truly one in nature and in the mission of teaching people the power of God’s compassion. Thus the doctrine of the Trinity and salvation through Jesus’ ministry (including His death and resurrection) are essential teachings of our faith. And these teachings must be communicated, as Jesus does, with full authority and clear understanding. All those responsible for handing on these beliefs must do so with conviction. They must be true prophets (spokespersons) for God. And in some sense, all believers share in this important process. We are all to live lives which proclaim the Good News of the Triune God’s love as manifested in the God-man, Jesus, and His life, teachings, death, and resurrection.
From the second reading of today, it is clear that there are lesser issues which do not have the same level of importance as the key dogmas of our faith. Even the prophetic Paul relayed information which was not as essential as other of his teachings. Paul was under the assumption that Jesus would return imminently. Just a few verses before today’s pericope, Paul says, “Time is running out.” This assumption affected his views on married life. There is a truth which Paul was trying to convey to his readers. The truth is that believers must not become too involved in the normal routine of non-believers. Non-believers lived only for selfish, worldly values, or values oriented toward living in this world and providing for one’s loved ones and family. Believers must not let any worldly ways interfere with their following the Lord Jesus and preparing for His eventual return. This message is as valid for us as it was for the Corinthians of Paul’s day. What is interesting is the word Paul uses in the verses preceding today’s Second Reading. He says: “This is what I think is best.” He was thus qualifying his words as his own and not on the equal status as when he communicates a teaching which has been handed down from the Lord Jesus as he does later in this same letter. (cf. 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you. . .”)
Therefore, it is important for all of us who are believers to study the teachings of Jesus and His followers. We must learn not only from the words which Jesus spoke and which have been handed down to us. We must also learn from the life and ministry of Jesus and those who have lived out His life in their own lives. Part of the learning process, which we must be involved in and with which we can receive help from the teaching authority of the church and other believers, demands that we learn to prioritize the instructions from Jesus and from the teachers who speak in His name. Certain things are essentials, the sine qua non elements of living out the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Other things which are passed down to us through those who teach us are valuable lessons, but do not have the same priority as the essential dogmas and doctrines.
Surely, it is our responsibility to live out what we learn from Jesus and those who teach with His authority. We must spend time by ourselves and with others who are learned, exploring and learning the Truth, Who is Jesus. We must ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We must, as the Responsorial Psalm urges us to do, “hear God’s voice and harden not our hearts.”
All teachers of the faith should know that it is particularly the responsibility of those who have been given the authority to teach in God’s name to clarify for those whom they instruct. They must clarify what are essential, biblical beliefs. They must distinguish scriptural information from ecclesiastical (church) information. They must make known, as Paul did in the seventh chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians, what are only the personal thoughts of their own.
Thus it is absolutely essential that we hear, listen, reflect on God’s voice and harden not hearts. This can only be done by continuous reading and studying God’s Word in scripture, relating it to how that is presented in the teachings of the church and other believers. Conscious of the fact that God will lead us the more we are open to the divine Word, we must then live out God’s will in a way which invites others to hear God’s voice and come into a deep and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.
MEDITATION How ready am I to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus and respond? When I have a question concerning the importance of a teaching, what do I do to help me in applying it to my life? Do I research scripture and see how God’s word addresses the issue? Do I seek the advice of those who are teachers of God’s way? Are people aware that I live my life with authority – the authority of the Lord Jesus?
PRAYER Lord God, we ask that You continue to give us the wisdom and understanding which come from Your Holy Spirit so that we might live lives that affirm the Truth. Through Christ Our Lord. AMEN
O DIVINE WORD WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATIONS
©️ Rev. Fr. Utazi Prince Marie Benignus