Fourth Sunday of the Year February 1, 2009

Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28
In our life we have come across people who are involved in hard work and have plenty of energy to work night and day and accomplish the task. Here we have a person, Jesus who is tireless and works with patience for long hours, for the sake of people. He seems to be always busy and at the same time is fully involved with people. The Gospel of today tells us of the work of Jesus as he taught in the synagogues of Capernaum, and worked his miracles there. People were just amazed at this ability to teach for he had never revealed himself as scholar at any time. In fact he never had any formal education. Yet people easily said that he taught with authority and not as the scribes and Pharisees. Authority means the ability to perform an action without hindrance. The teaching of Jesus manifested the dominion of God which Jesus himself had declared to be close at hand. His authority meant his control over everything and he could command over the nature and even the evil spirits. His authority was divine. The authority of Jesus is seen throughout the New Testament where He overthrows the rule of Satan, the Prince of this world, by establishing the invisible Kingdom of God on earth
In the First Reading, we heard of God’s promise to Moses that He would raise up for us a prophet. This is only one of God’s many promises that were made and are found in the Old Testament, each of them having been fulfilled through Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament. When reference is made to Jesus as the prophet, it must be understood that the word “prophet” in the days of Moses meant a “mediator” between God and man. Moses was a mediator. He spoke to the people on behalf of God and spoke to God on behalf of the people. Based on that particular function as mediator between God and man, the Lord God promised to raise a prophet just like Moses who would be like him. However, the Heavenly Father sent them someone who was greater than a prophet, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus had a unique relationship with God the Father, Moses also had a unique relationship with the Lord, God speaking to Moses face to face. There is also a call to respond namely, if anyone does not heed the words that the prophet speaks in the Name of God, God Himself will hold them accountable, meaning that every person is called on to respond to him.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul tells the believers to lead the life that the Lord has assigned them, to which God has called them. The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to tell the believers that God wants them to be free from anxieties. The virgin, the unmarried man and woman, are called to be anxious about the affairs of the Lord, on how to please the Lord so they may be holy in body and spirit. Those who are married experience anxieties regarding the affairs of the world, how to please their spouse, their interest being divided between God and the world. They must not neglect this calling for the Spirit of God dwells within everybody. Showing love towards others in obedience to the Commandments, a Christian can enjoy a living faith in Christ that is different from the religious life but still very pleasing in the eyes of God.
Today’s passage from Mark is really the beginning of a busy day or a typical day for Jesus in which are contained, all the important characteristics of his public life. The Gospel tells us what Jesus routinely did every day during his public life. He joins in public worship in the Synagogue; he teaches doctrine to people; he preaches the word of God, he heals, he drives out evil spirits, and shows his compassion on all. Mark also tells us of his routine that he prayed privately which certainly would have surprised his companions. There is also the astounded reaction of the ordinary people about his greatness.
This first reported day in Jesus’ public life is a Sabbath day. And we find Jesus with his fellow townsmen in the synagogue. It is important for us to realise that Jesus was a practicing Jew and he normally observed the requirements of the Jewish faith, as did his disciples even after the resurrection. He never criticized that faith. What he did criticise was the distortions, hypocrisies and other corrupting elements. Jesus’ message is, as he says about his task in the Gospel of Matthew, not an abrogation of the Jewish faith but carrying it to its logical fulfillment. The synagogue service was basically a Scripture reading and a prayer service. There was no sacrifice; that was confined to one place, the Temple in Jerusalem. Most Jews very seldom went to the Temple for the simple reason that, for most of them, it was too far away. We see Jesus apparently going there about once a year or, like his compatriots, for some of the major feasts.
However, on every Sabbath they went to their local synagogue for common worship and prayer. The routine service was performed. There were some prayers, reading from the Scripture and someone preached. In the synagogue, anyone could be invited to get up and preach. On this particular Sabbath day, Jesus was invited and he spoke differently. He spoke the words of the Father giving his own interpretation.
We must be conscious that during the time of Jesus medical science was not as advanced as it is today and therefore any person sick, or acted in an ‘abnormal’ way, he was said to have an evil spirit within him. It was natural to think that people such as epileptics, spastics, and mentally disturbed were considered to be possessed by the evil spirit. The moment they were healed were considered to be freed from their clutches. Jesus went along with the same concept as he too was bound by the cultural practices of his time. The point is that they were healed, made whole again, by Jesus and were liberated from their affliction. Here Jesus confronts the evil spirit and commands “Be quiet! Come out of him!” The man is thrown into convulsions but he is free. What is really important is that he feels free. The people in the synagogue are astounded. “Here is teaching that is new and with authority behind it. Two things stand out in this incident. First of all, the first miracle performed by Jesus is an exorcism. The first miracle of an exorcism is a sign that evil is destroyed in the Divine Presence of Jesus. Secondly, the evil spirit that possessed the man recognised Jesus as the Messiah, and expressed His true identity in public. The people had never seen such great power. The authority of Jesus was over the invisible world as much as over the visible one to bring about the healing.


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