Sunday Sermon for February 1, 2015, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Dt 18:15-20; Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28
In the first reading today God makes a promise and a command. He promises that He will raise up for the people a Prophet like Moses. At the same time, He requires that the people will listen to that Prophet because the words he speaks will be the words that God Himself puts in his mouth to speak. Therefore, the people have to listen and live according to the words of the Prophet because they are actually the Word of God.

For centuries the people of Israel waited for the Prophet who had been promised. Even the Samaritans, who only believed in the first five books of the Bible, were waiting for this Prophet. This is why the Samaritan woman at the well in the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel speaks of the Prophet. When the people were sent to St. John the Baptist, they asked him if he might be the Messiah, Elijah, or the Prophet. These both refer back to this promise from God as recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy.

While it maybe rather exciting to think about God sending someone into this world, the problem comes when we realize that we will have to listen to what this Prophet says and we may even have to make some changes in our lives so that we can live in accordance with His words. For us the question regarding this Prophet has been answered and we know Who the Prophet is. Even the demons gave testimony to this fact, as we see in today’s Gospel.

The problem of listening to Him and living in accordance with His words has not changed over the years. Even though we know that Jesus is the One foretold, we still have difficulty listening to Him. This is due to the fact that we want to do things our own way. However, the Lord not only teaches with authority, as the people of His time attest, but He also does everything with perfect charity. This means that He only wants what is best for us.

Unfortunately, we do not always want what is best for us because we either have some ideas of our own that we think are pretty good or because we do not want to let go of control. It is usually the latter that is our struggle. We have to realize that in eternity we will all be doing the will of another, and there are only two possibilities of in this regard. Since, in Heaven, everyone will be perfectly united with God, doing His will will be the norm for everyone. No one will be forced to do anything because everyone will be acting in perfect charity. In hell, on the other hand, everyone will be forced, against their will, to carry out the will of one who never acts in charity.

At the present, the devil makes it sound like doing it his way is more fun, more exciting, more fulfilling. He tries to tell us that doing it God’s way is dull and boring. We have all learned, I hope, that doing things God’s way is certainly not boring, but it is fulfilling. Doing it the devil’s way seems exciting for a few moments, but it always produces a sense of emptiness. We are never fulfilled by doing things the devil’s way.

We are provided with an interesting example in the second reading that we can apply to this issue. Most people reading this are married. St. Paul speaks of how a married person is divided because they have to seek to serve their spouse as well as serving the Lord. I would point out that if we recognize marriage as a vocation, which it is, then serving one’s spouse is doing the will of God; therefore, there is no division.

The enemy of our souls wants to convince us that marriage is not fulfilling. He highlights the weaknesses and the problems of the other spouse, he generates squabbles and arguments, he tries to get our focus off of loving the spouse and put it on our own self. It is precisely this focus on self that leads to people being unfulfilled in a marriage. But because the problems in the other are continually being pointed out and because of the troubles being stirred up, it is easy to put the blame on the other.

If you want to find fulfillment in your marriage, put the focus on loving the other person, as you vowed you would do on the day you were married. At first this is hard, but with time is not only becomes easy, it becomes the joy of your life. The lesson can be applied to any state in life: do things God’s way and you will find joy and fulfillment.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit