Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

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

Best way to live, credibility, teaching with authority and healing are some of the phrases that help to capture the message of this Sunday. The readings draw our attention to the importance of credible witness from one's faith conviction. The bottom line is that if our words match our life, people would be astonished by what we do and say, because the Spirit will be working in us. The main point in the first reading is to show that a prophet’s credibility comes directly from God. As we hear at the end of the reading, there were and still there are false prophets today, who presume to speak in the Lord's name or those who “speak in the name of other gods…”, claiming to speak the truth, while at the same time embracing hostility and divisiveness. The response to the psalm calls us to soften our hearts if we hear the Lord's voice. But we must be aware that society today presents to us other "voices", and therefore the need to discern carefully. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, Paul counsels purity of body through celibacy and virginity as a sign of the Kingdom, in other words we are called to strive towards holiness. His argument: we need to dedicate ourselves totally to the Lord, because this world is passing away. While Paul does not devalue married life, he is convinced that nothing can outweigh the immanent second coming of the Lord. Living that kind of authentic life is the best way to live and gives credible witness.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives a concrete example of what it means to speak from one's faith conviction. We can always tell the difference between a written message and a message from one’s faith conviction. A message from the heart touches people deeply. That is the conviction with which Jesus speaks this Sunday. We hear in the Gospel that "the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority”. Jesus needed no credentials. The source of his authority was his intimate relationship with the Father that evoked a sense of deep conviction behind his teaching. We also encounter the dramatic episode of chasing away an evil spirit from a person in the Synagogue. Why was Jesus able to perform such wonders and heal people of their sickness? Why did his teaching make such a deep impression? While the exorcism Jesus performed was dramatic, what really convinced the people more was his intimate relationship with the Father. He spoke from the heart. Whatever happened during those moments of teaching and healing, Jesus wanted to reveal the Kingdom of God so that people might experience life in its fullness. So what message do we draw from the readings? 1) The readings challenge us to open our hearts so that the teaching of Jesus may transform our lives and his healing power may restore us to be the best version of ourselves. 2) Just as the source of Jesus’ power to heal and teach with authority was his intimate relationship with the Father, so too our credible witness with authority is our close relationship with the Father through prayer and the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of reconciliation. 3) The healing of the person with unclean spirit is a metaphor for what Jesus still proclaims through the Church and through us even today. Miracles still do happen! The best proof is the power of God’s word that transforms us to live in the best way and so become effective instruments of transforming others.

©2015 John S. Mbinda

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