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Fourth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Deut 18:15-20; I Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28.
1/ First Reading: RSV Deuteronomy 18:15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren — him you shall heed — 16 just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, `Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the LORD said to me, `They have rightly said all that they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
2/ Second Reading: RSV 1 Corinthians 7:32 I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; 33 but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. 35 I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
3/ Gospel: RSV Mark 1:21 And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
I. THEME: The prophet’s role
According to Jewish prophetic tradition, a prophet is the one who speaks for God, not foretells things which shall happen in the future; even though he sometimes does it. He is God’s mouthpiece. In the Old Testament, prophets were the minority, selected amongst people to speak for God, especially during before, during and after the exile.
Today readings highlight the prophet’s role. In the first reading, the author of Deuteronomy gave us the reason why the Israelites have prophets: they are the mediators between God and His people. In the second reading, St. Paul gave the Corinthians a practical reason to be single, so that they could have more time to do God’s works. In the Gospel, Jesus is the most important prophet because he is the Word of God. He preached as an authorative prophet, not as scribes. He had power to expel unclean spirits from people.
1/ Reading I: The prophecy about the prophet whom God promised to give.
1.1/ The necessary role of a prophet: According to the Israel tradition, when one sees God, he shall certainly die except when God permits him to see. In the Old Testament, God didn’t appear to speak to the Israelites; but He used leaders and prophets such as Moses and Aaron to communicate His wills to people. To certify their leadership, God let people see some of His power when the Israelites were gathered at Horeb mountain. People couldn’t stand though it was only a part of God’s power; and they said to Moses: “Let us not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire any more, lest we die.”
Because of this, God promised to His people: “They have rightly said all that they have spoken.I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” In other words, God shall choose a prophet among people so that he shall be the mediator between God and His people. This promise was fulfilled by all prophets of the Old Testament; however, it was also fulfilled by Christ, the exemplar of all prophets of God. He lived in the midst of people but had God’s power and wisdom. He is the perfect mediatior between God and men.
1.2/ The relationship between God, prophet and people: Today passage outlined the relationship, duties and responsibilities of each member.
(1) God and the prophet: God is the one who chooses and send the prophet to help the people. None can volunteer to be a prophet. The main duty of the prophet is to speak to people what God wants: “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”
(2) The prophet and people: People must obey what the prophet told them, because “whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.” When the prophet speaks in the name of God, his word is God’s word; to disobey his word is to disobey God, and people must endure consequences of their disobedience before God.
People are easy to disobey the prophet because they think he is also a human being like them. They forget that he is chosen and sent by God to them.
(3) The prophet and God: The prophet must speak what God wants him since “whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.”Not everything that the prophet speaks are of God, but only what God commands him to speak and what he speaks in the name of God.
Prophets have a tendency not to speak what God commands due to the following reasons:
– The prophet knows people don’t want to hear the truth because it hurts them. People want to hear jokes, funny stories, things that don’t require to think much. They don’t want to hear about laws, sin, death, war, sacrifice, suffering and carrying their daily cross; therefore, the prophet has a tendency to avoid these topics.
– The prophet is afraid of bad results that could happen, such as: not being popular, be hated by audience, be persecuted by government or powerful people.
Moreover, some prophets use their office to gain material things, to become popular, to show their talent or to get advance. They forget God’s warning: “the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.”
2/ Reading II: To please God or human beings?
2.1/ A prophet must please God: Jewish tradition pays a special attention to marriage, they consider it as a holy duty. The only exception for not getting marry is to dedicate one’s whole life to study God’s Law. In the community of the Corinthians, there might be a discussion between the faithful to see which vocation is better, to get marry or to remain single. St. Paul gave his opinion on this topic.
(1) Unmarried men: “The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord;but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife,and his interests are divided.”
(2 Unmarried women: “The unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband.”
His main logic is that the unmarried men or women don’t have to worry about their spouses, so they can use all their time and effort to worry about God’s things. The married men and women must spend time with their spouse and care for their children, so they shall have little time to worry about God’s things and their minds were distracted by worldly things.
2.2/ Let fulfill our vocation: The important thing, according to St. Paul, isn’t about which vocation is better; but on how everybody fulfill their vocation. If one remains single and doesn’t spend time to do God’s work, what good can he achieve? All have duty to glorify God and make contribution in the expansion of God’s kingdom.
3/ Gospel: Jesus is the perfect exemplar of God’s prophets.
3.1/ Jesus’ authority to preach: Mark reported: “And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.”
The passage didn’t describe what are the differences between Jesus and scribes; we must rely on other passages, especially the conflicts between Jesus and them, to list out some of their differences.
(1) Jesus paid a special attention to what are inside men, such as: the reverence of God, having compassion, doing God’s will, protecting life even on the sabbath; while scribes paid their attention on following strictly ceremonies, keeping the laws from outside, long prayers, keeping the sabbath and purification (Mk 2:23-24).
(2) Jesus isn’t afraid of speaking the truth and facing the conflict (Mk 3:23-27);
while the scribes and Pharisees always find a way to hide their wicked and calculated intention of their mind (Mk 3:2-6).
3.2/ Jesus had power to expel unclean spirits: Jewish tradition believes there are many unclean spirits in the world; they used to live in dirty places, deserts and cemeteries. They threaten lonely voyagers, pregnant women, and children. They are active at noon and during nightime, the time between dusk and dawn. There are different spirits, and they transmit their bad qualities to those were possessed by them, such as: blind, leper, fornication… Many times Jesus expelled unclean spirits from people; today passage is an example. Exorcism is one of the seven holy offices which are given to those who are going to become priests.
(1) Jesus was not afraid of unclean spirits: Mark reported: “And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit;and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.””
It isn’t a surprise when the unclean spirit said something like this sentence because Jesus’ mission is completely opposed with the unclean spirit’s mission. Jesus comes to liberate people from the power of sins while the evil tries to confine people in sins.
(2) Jesus expelled the unclean spirit from the man: “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.” There is a difference between Jesus’s power and other exorcists. Jesus used his power by saying a short and simple command, not in the name of other power or using a fixed formula.
(3) The man was healed and people’s reaction: Witnessed what people did, people were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching! With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– By Baptism, we are all God’s prophets. Our duties are to learn, to speak, to live and to witness for the truth.
– As prophets, we must face those who are opposed the truth, such as the devil and the world. We might be rejected, ridiculed, persecuted, put in prison, or died.
– We shouldn’t be afraid all these so we shall speak God’s truth, not what people want to hear. Let remember that we must be responsible to God, He shall demand our blood for those who are destroyed because we have no courage to speak the truth to them.
– We must respect those who are God’s prophets, even though they say something we don’t want to hear; but they are God’s words.