Sunday Sermon for January 31, 2021, the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Deut 18:15-20; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28

In the first reading today Moses tells the people of Israel that God would raise up a Prophet like Moses; that Prophet would have the Word of God in His mouth and He would tell the people whatever God commanded.  Moses ends with a warning given him by God that anyone who will not listen to what this Prophet says, God Himself will make that person answer for his failure to listen.

In the Gospel reading the people who heard our Lord preach in the synagogue at Capernaum and witnessed the exorcism of the possessed man were amazed and proclaimed that our Lord’s teaching had authority and that even unclean spirits obey His commands.  We must note that this passage comes from the first chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, so he was presenting Jesus to his readers not just as a Rabbi or an itinerant preacher, but at the Messiah and the Prophet spoken of by Moses.

Never does St. Mark explicitly call Jesus the Prophet, but the explanation of what our Lord did and taught showed Him to be the One of whom Moses spoke.  There are a number of Gospel passages that refer to Jesus as a prophet, and only one (Jn 7:40) that refers to Him as the Prophet.  But it was unnecessary to portray our Lord to a Jewish audience by an explicit reference; the way of explanation probably worked much better.  The people, recall, were expecting the Messiah and they knew well the passage from Deuteronomy about the Prophet, so what they needed was a presentation that demonstrated our Lord to be the fulfillment of these promises.

What is important for us to consider is the authority with which our Lord taught.  The people who heard Him in person were amazed.  Are we?  They should have (and may have) understood Him to be the Prophet and the Messiah.  Do we?  The people of Capernaum recognized the authority with which our Lord spoke.  Do we? 

We unhesitatingly call our Lord Jesus Christ; Christ, of course, means the anointed one or the Messiah.  But do we really recognize Him to be the Christ?  It is not enough to simply acknowledge Jesus as the Christ.  While it is certainly a true statement, we must remember that even the devil is willing and able to state this truth about our Lord.  If we are going to proclaim Jesus to be the Christ, we need to live this truth in our daily lives.  If we are willing to say Jesus is the Son of God, then why do His words not have much authority in our lives?  We treat His teaching as though it were just an opinion which we can take or leave. 

We recall that our Lord told His Apostles a prophet is not without honor except in his native country and among his own kin.  Have we, as members of Jesus Christ, grown so accustomed to being with Him that we have lost our sense of reverence, awe, and amazement?  It is necessary for us to regularly remind ourselves that He is God and that we need to be reverent and respectful in His presence. 

In the second reading St. Paul tells us that married people must strive to please one another and that they are anxious about the things of the world.  He contrasts this with single people who are able to focus on pleasing the Lord.  While is maybe true that a single person can be solely focused on the Lord, we also have to remember that loving and serving one another in marriage is part of the vocation to which God has called married people.  So, striving to please one another in marriage is part of serving the Lord. 

St. Paul says married couple are divided in trying to please the Lord and one another.  Since marriage is God’s call for these people, they are not divided if they are putting God first and loving one another in Him.  The balance of working in the world, being married, raising children, and being faithful to the Lord is not always easy to find.  This is the point St. Paul is getting at.  But to live married life according to God’s plan is precisely the way married people are going to become Saints.

Within marriage, prayer and the Word of God must be central.  The respect and awe we need to have toward our Lord must overflow into the respect and awe married couples have for one another.  This, in turn, flows to the children who then learn proper reverence for God, for their parents, and for one another.  This is the true beauty of family life.  This kind of holiness in family life is possible only when Jesus truly reverenced as Lord and Christ.

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