Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, January 31, 2021, Year B
In the Catholic Church, our Sunday Sermons, which we call "Homilies,” are based upon a three-year cycle of readings from something called a “Lectionary.” In Catholicism, this cyclical reading is set up to guide us through the liturgical calendar — Ordinary time, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Advent, and Christmas. Of course, there are a few other feast days and celebrations thrown in for good measure. However, the point being is, if you diligently follow along, you’ll be exposed to the lion’s share of bible readings 365 days a year, after these three cycles are complete.
The practice of guided readings is quite old and may date back to the time of Moses. An ancient Jewish book called the Talmud claims that the practice of reading appointed Scriptures on given days or occasions dates back to the time of Moses and began with the annual religious festivals of Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles.
From the daily readings to most of the texts in our liturgies, and prayers, Holy Scripture inculcates and guides the spiritual life of our Church. The naysayers who proclaim otherwise, that Catholics don’t read the Bible, or are told not to, are sadly mistaken.
So then, rather than a sermon, which focuses on what a particular preacher may feel “led” to talk about on a given Sunday, or series of Sundays, as many Protestant and Non-Denominational ministers do, Catholics are a bit more structured in our approach. What we offer is probably the first, true, “Through the Bible” approach to preaching the word of God.
So, If you’re not hearing God’s word, rightly divided in a Catholic Church, you may need to clean out your ears. On the other hand, if your pastor is preaching a strange gospel of new-age, politically correct jargon, you should talk to the bishop in charge of that diocese.
One of the things that still frosts me, as a former Evangelical Protestant, turned Catholic, was the number of times I’d been taught falsehoods regarding Catholics. This misconception regarding Catholic reliance on scripture is just one.
Teaching from the Word of God is one of the principle responsibilities of the Church. Here at St. Nicholas OCC, we are particularly concerned with teaching in fidelity to ancient understandings handed down to us from the Apostles and Fathers of the Church. Our first reading this morning emphasizes that importance — "But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”
Wow. As a servant of God, a bishop, consecrated into service, I have no higher calling than to be the shepherd of souls, presenting unadulterated teachings. Therefore, it is also my responsibility to ensure that those I give authority to teach, do so in Spirit and Truth.
The readings of today's Mass present to us many themes to ponder:
In the 1st reading (Dt 18:15–20), Moses said to the people to listen to the prophet which God will send them thereby underlining the need to listen attentively and docilely to all those God sent to his people to preach; Jesus is that prophet, and he must be proclaimed diligently and faithfully — under strict warning.
In the 2nd reading (1 Cor 7:32–35), St. Paul underlines the importance of an undivided heart in order to serve God; warning that those of us who choose both marriage and the ordained ministry will have a more difficult task of spiritual fidelity.
In the Gospel (Mk 1:21–28), St. Mark stresses on Jesus’ extraordinary authority which differentiates him from the scribes: an authority which left the crowds in the synagogue astonished and impressed upon hearing Him teach; an authority which he showed not only through words but also through deeds upon freeing a man from an unclean spirit, thereby, manifesting his divine supremacy against the evil forces which enslave men and keep them from true faith and elegance to Jesus' Word.
We can sum up the above ideas into one important idea: Listen To and Be Faithful To Jesus.
In order to faithfully follow, serve and love God with an undivided loyalty, we must be willing to listen attentively to the authentic proclamation of God’s word, listening intently — putting aside individual pride and worldly understanding.
Who are the instruments God is using today?
The Bishops and consistent teachings of the historic Magisterium of the Church;
our parents with rightly formed faith;
a qualified and trusted spiritual director.
Let us not forget, however, that listening to Jesus and those who represent Him requires humility on our part. Such humility enables us to receive and accept advice and help from another person, rather than relying on our own feelings. Our life of faith MUST become rightly formed.
Pride, on the other hand, leads one to be self-sufficient, to consider one’s self superior to others and thereby sees no necessity at all nor allows himself to be taught, to be helped, nor to receive advice from others.
Pride not only blinds us to see the truth; it also makes us deaf, numb and resistant: incapable of receiving God’s grace and help from the people whom God has placed by our side to help us grow in our Christian life.
Aside from having a humble disposition, we must put into effect the means and occasions by which we can listen to Jesus. Which means are these?
There are indeed several ways but as a fatherly and friendly suggestion, you can begin with one or more of the following means, gradually incorporating them in your daily life:
Gospel Readings and Reflections: even for just 1-2 minutes daily to know who Jesus is, his words, his virtues…: This is one reason why I’m attempting to being diligent I’m preparing daily Gospel Reflections.
Contemplative Prayer - Prayer is nothing but a friendly conversation with God, telling him what is in your heart. Read more in my book “Authentic Faith, Radical Transformation and Contemplative Prayer."
After the Eucharist at Mass, try spending a few minutes of reflection and thanksgiving to Our Lord Jesus Christ who is physically present in your soul at that very moment. This moment of thanksgiving, of seeking him, of petition, of listening is the most important event during the day (or week) because God is within you.
Perhaps you could also seek out a faithful priest or deacon who is dedicated to the authentic teachings of the Church, for spiritual direction.
Dear friends: God tells us: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:15) Let's then be humble so as to hear and listen to what Jesus wants to tell us putting into effect the means which are within our reach to listen to Jesus.
Are you listening to what the Lord is saying to the Church today? Yes, He is still speaking, but unlike modernist, new-age false prophets, He isn't saying something that contradicts Himself, the Apostles, or Fathers of the Church.
“IF TODAY YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS”
Today's Lectionary Readings
Deuteronomy 18:15–20 Moses spoke to all the people, saying: “A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen. This is exactly what you requested of the Lord, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire anymore, lest we die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘This was well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him.’ Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”
1 Corinthians 7:32–35 Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.
Mark 1:21–28 Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.