February 1, 2015 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dt 18: 15-20; Ps 95: 1-2, 6-9; 1 Cor 7: 32-35; Mk 1: 21-28
The Book of Deuteronomy, from which the first reading is drawn, is a series of speeches delivered by Moses to the Israelites. Our reading today is part of the second speech, the major point of which is the importance of the concept of one God and the importance of devotion and allegiance to that one God. Nevertheless, as is true throughout the Old Testament words are spoken and thoughts given that lead us directly to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Moses states, “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.” Moses spoke the word of God as would this new prophet to come. And Moses implored us to listen to Him.
Moses cautions about false prophets, but he is very clear on the fact that this new prophet, Jesus, would give us the Word of God in a clarity and in ways that we had never heard before. Jesus would truly become for us “the Light of the world.” He is one of us; He loves us; and He can guide us to paths of righteousness.
This Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time is one of those Sundays when the connection among the major readings is more difficult to see, as each reading makes an important point that can only be connected with an overall view. St. Paul, in the second reading taken from his letter to the Corinthians, speaks of the importance of a single, non-married way of life. Paul is neither condemning a married way of life nor making an abstract statement about the priesthood. Keep in mind that Paul himself never married so it is natural for him to explain the values of being single. For St. Paul the purpose of life was to please God. Paul is not being critical of those who are married, but he is making it clear to them that one of their main purposes should be to please their spouse. Considering being single to be a particular gift so he could concentrate on serving the Lord, Paul is encouraging other single people to see that opportunity and pursue it.
The Gospel reading from Mark reminds us how the Four Gospels are unique unto themselves (John’s being the most distinctive), and each has a history unto itself. Most scholars agree that Mark was closely associated with St. Peter, and many ascribe Mark’s Gospel to what he heard from Peter. For example, Mark has more dramatic details than the other Gospels, and St. Mark uses more Aramaic phrases than any of the other Gospels. It is believed that Peter spoke exclusively Aramaic, and, of course, that was the native tongue of Jesus.
In this particular Gospel reading we find Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum teaching. In those days there was something called the “freedom of the synagogue” so anyone could teach there. However, the people find Jesus different because He teaches “with authority.” When You are God, teaching with authority comes naturally. Jesus knew what He was talking about, and He was able to teach the Word of God so effectively because Jesus understood how important it was to be obedient to God.
That is sometimes our difficulty. We may understand, as Moses predicted, that Jesus was the Chosen One; He was the One sent by God to teach us and to save us. We may even appreciate St. Paul’s perspective that focus on God is so important in our lives. However, when it comes to submitting completely to God, to becoming disciples and stewards as Jesus expects of us, we may not be able to get past the idea of serving, of being subservient to God and others. Even the “unclean spirit” presented in the Gospel acknowledges this respect by saying, “I know who you are — the Holy One of God.” We need to yield to the power and presence of the Lord, and we need to be good stewards in that regard.