FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (2021)
Readings:Deuteronomy 18:15-20Psalms 95:1-2, 6-91 Corinthians 7:32-35Mark 1:21-28
The liturgical titles for these Sundays between the Christmas Season and Lent contain the word “Ordinary.” If only these days, surely all days, were ordinary. We are living in an extraordinary time, a time replete with chaos and upset, not only within our government, but also within the wider Church.
I remember being stunned and amazed after the attacks by foreign terrorists that brought down four airplanes full of people, destroying the twin towers in New York, damaging one of the world’s largest buildings, the Pentagon, and raising an area of the country from “not very memorable” to “unforgettable,” Shanksville, Pennsylvania. That was also a stressful time, but it was a time when there at least appeared to be a greater sense of unity, a sense of connectedness, which quickly made it possible to do what was needed to be done, and to agree on what was needed to be done. I am not sure we are living in such a time. Indeed, the proliferation of untruths and half-truths, spoken not just on the fringiest of media sites but on the evening news, makes these anxious times for so many. That is why Paul’s advice in our second reading, “I should like you to be free of anxieties,” stands out in such high relief. I, too, would like to “be free of anxieties,” but instead I seem “to sit in darkness,” and live in a place “overshadowed by death” (gospel acclamation).
Jesus longed for a world that was ordinary, a world that reflected even more the world God had created. I don’t believe Jesus wanted to establish, or even thought it possible, a new ‘Garden of Eden,’ but He wanted the world to be a better place, and He wanted those He came in contact with to catch a glimpse of that improved world. What Jesus preached was the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that entered our world of flesh and blood with the birth of our Savior, but it was a kingdom not inaugurated for some thirty years.
Jesus’ years of consciousness were surely moments of deep reflection, when almost like a bystander He witnessed the religious customs of His day, the behavior of His Mother and Father, the teachings of those regarded as religious leaders, the ordinary behavior of beggars and kings, the interactions of Gentiles and Jews. Each moment was infused with the wisdom that can only come from above, and when John the Baptist came on the scene He knew that it was time for Him to put ‘His show’ on the road, to gather some intimate friends around Him, and preach the good news to as many people as He could. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophet predicted by Moses in our first reading, a prophet who would only convey the teachings of God, a prophet who teaches with “authority.”
When Jesus and His small band of disciples come to Capernaum Jesus enters the synagogue, and teaches them “as one having authority,” such authority that the evil and unclean spirits were aroused, for they knew that Jesus had power over even them. Jesus’ rebuke of the unclean spirit and His dispelling of that Spirit was meant to be a sign that the Kingdom of God had arrived in the person of Jesus.
In our own troubled times we need to see in Jesus and His teachings an antidote to what ails us. While He no longer walks on this earth His imprint is still here, especially in those who have taken to heart His teachings and who do their best to put those teachings into practice on a daily basis. Jesus was uninterested in the “fame” that “spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee;” He was only interested in molding the hearts of those who were open to His teaching.
We must allow Jesus to mold our hearts into vessels that truly reflect His teachings. In the darkness of pandemics and divisions, in the midst of confusion and uncertainties, as we find our way though the falsehoods and lies, we conform our hearts to that of Christ, that He might free us of the “anxieties” that might cloud our vision, and allow us to be less than the images of the God we worship, which we so strive to become.