4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
31st January 2021
Year B – Psalter week 4
Unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
At the beginning of today’s gospel, St. Mark tells us that when Jesus went into the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath, “his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority”. When the scribes taught, they would often quote the teachings of well-respected Rabbis, so they were quoting other learned men. When the prophets of the Old Testament used to proclaim God’s word to the people, they would often say, “Thus says the Lord”. When Jesus speaks, however, we often find him saying, “I say to you”. He thus speaks from the position of God himself, and of course, we have the knowledge now that Jesus is God the Son, the Word of God, and the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is God become man, so when he speaks, God speaks.
But how could his hearers at the time know that he spoke with such authority? Well, the Greek word for authority used in the gospel is “exousia”, which has the connotation of “power”. They saw, then, that the words of Jesus carried power, and this was most obvious today in his confrontation with an “unclean spirit”.
It may be helpful to remind ourselves of the Church’s teaching on fallen angels. The Catechism states: “Behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurks a seductive voice, opposed to God, which makes them fall into death out of envy. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition see in this being a fallen angel, called “Satan” or the “devil”. The Church teaches that Satan was at first a good angel, made by God: The devil and the other demons were indeed created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing. Scripture speaks of a sin of these angels. This “fall” consists in the free choice of these created spirits, who radically and irrevocably rejected God and his reign.”
In the gospel we hear the following: “In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God’”. There are a few things to notice here about the unclean spirit. Firstly, it does not say that the man shouted at Jesus, but that “it” shouted, so it is the unclean spirit communicating with Jesus. Secondly, the unclean spirit said: “I know who you are: the Holy One of God”. So while people may not know who Jesus is, the fallen angels do know, although of course they have already rejected him. Thirdly, why was it that the unclean spirit spoke through the man at all? Wouldn’t it have been better for it to try and hide and remain silent? Well, the fact that the man was in the synagogue in the first place must have meant that he desired to be free from this afflicting spirit, and the unclean spirit just could not hide in the presence of Jesus.
In our post-modern world many people do not believe in the existence of God or of the devil. This is a mistake. Some Christians, meanwhile, believe in God, but do not believe that the devil exists. This also is a mistake, and utterly undermines the whole purpose of Jesus’ mission. As St. John declares in his first Epistle: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”.
The Church still very much upholds the truth that fallen angels exist and is why it still appoints exorcists. At every baptism and Easter liturgy, we make or renew our baptismal promises by first renouncing Satan, all his works and his empty show. While our focus must be on God first and foremost, we are still to remain diligent during this earthy pilgrimage.
The reason that evil has no hold upon Jesus is because he did not, during his earthly life, give in to any temptation, but instead remained faithful in his relationship with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, whatever the cost. Every temptation, ultimately, aims at rupturing our relationship with God first and foremost, which then leads to the rupture of our relationships with one another and with creation.
Today’s gospel is an encouragement for us to remain close to Jesus and to persevere in our journey of faith even when it is costly. Every rejection of temptation and every act of selflessness and love is a victory in Jesus, no matter how little it seems.
The following are some ways in which we can remain firmly in God’s love and under His protection:
- By practicing our faith, praying regularly, becoming familiar with God’s Word and the teachings of the Church, and receiving the Sacraments when we can.
- Keeping the Ten Commandments and seeking to live the life of the beatitudes.
- By acts of love and service for others, particularly the poor.
- By resisting all sin, and not falling into habitual and unrepentant sin, no matter how small.
- By not worshiping false gods. These include the pursuit of money, sex, power and inordinate pleasures, but also superstition, divination and magic. In this regard the Catechism says to avoid “consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance and recourse to mediums” and “all practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one’s service and have a supernatural power over others.” It also lists irreligion, atheism and agnosticism as a breaking of the first commandment to worship God alone.
- There are also many dangers inherent in the New Age movement which are spoken of in the Church’s document, “Jesus Christ the Bearer of the Water of Life” and includes Reike healing which seems to have become more popular.
- I should mention here that the Church also forbids Catholics from becoming Freemasons because it is effectively an alternative religion.
Going back to today’s gospel, we can conclude that if we come back to Jesus and remain close to him we have nothing to fear. It took one word of command from the Lord to bring freedom: “Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him.” The power of the enemy is clearly no match for the power and love of God!
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 391-2.
 1 John 3:8.
 Catechism of the Cathsolic Church, No. 2116-7.
 Ibid., No. 2118-28
I will raise up a prophet and put my words into his mouth
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Sunday Message and Look
Download this weeks Sunday Message and Look (for our younger parishioners) by clicking on the images, for all the readings for this week, as well as the prayers during mass and the usual weekly thoughts and reflections.
Alleluia, alleluia! Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for revealing the mysteries of the kingdom to mere children. Alleluia!