- to be celebrated on 1-2-2015 -
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel : Mark 1:21-28
vs.21 In the city of Capernaum, on a sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach.
vs.22 And his teaching made a great impression on them, because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
vs.23 In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted,
vs.24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are.
vs. 25 But 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 people were so astonished that they started asking each other what. it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
We have three commentators available from whom you may wish to choose . Click on the name of the commentator required.
Michel DeVerteuil: A Recently deceased Trinidadian Holy Ghost Priest, director of the Centre of Biblical renewal
Thomas O’Loughlin: Professor of Historical Theology, University of Wales, Lampitor
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and taught at Blackrock College and part time at Milltown Institute,
Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels
As we go on with our continuous reading of St Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus in Galilee where he starts his public ministry.
This passage is in three parts:
– verses 21-22: a summary of the teaching of Jesus in the synagogue;
– verses 23 to 27: an example of his ministry of driving out unclean spirits;
– verse 28: the effect of Jesus’ ministry.
In the first section, the emphasis is on the contrast between Jesus and the scribes. Here the scribes are symbolical of those who are content to record the teachings of others; Jesus speaks with personal authority.
In verse 28 St Mark evokes, as he often does in his gospel, the spread of Jesus’ reputation. Ask yourself how the passage if being fulfilled today, of the church or of any great movement.
Lord, when we look back on our lives
we realize that most of those who gave us moral teachings spoke platitudes.
They were scribes recording what others had said.
But we thank you that from time to time
you sent us someone like Jesus who spoke from their own experience,
and shared honestly what they were feeling;
these made a deep impression on us,
because unlike scribes they spoke with authority.
“When the church concerns herself with the development of peoples, she cannot be accused of going outside her own specific field of competence, and still less outside the mandate received from the Lord.” …Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis
Lord, when the church confines herself
to going to the synagogue and teaching,
concerning herself with what is internal to her, many are happy –
they rejoice that she is making a deep impression on them.
But your will is that we should go further
and cast out the demons of our society –
racism, class conflicts, discrimination against the disadvantaged.
When the church does this there are convulsions and loud cries.
We thank you that in many countries
the church has persevered in following Jesus,
and people have been astonished and questioned themselves,
and her reputation has spread
as one who gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey her.
Lord, we remember a time when we were held in bondage by an inner force:
– we could not forgive;
– we did not want to commit ourselves because we were afraid of failure;
– ambition was clouding our vision of the truth.
Then someone began to speak, challenging us to face the truth
– one of our children, a friend, a bible passage.
We got angry, denied it vehemently, wept, complained to another.
Like the man in the gospel, we went into convulsions and cried aloud.
We realize now that it was because we knew
that the Holy One of God was with us,
he had come to do away with our sin.
Eventually, after a long struggle,
we recognized the demon for what it was,
and it went out of us.
Thank you, Lord.
“I can only reach that depth in my neighbour that I can reach in my own spirit.” ”’Mathew Kelly, Cistercian monk
Lord, our teaching will be new and will have authority behind it
only if we have accepted its authority within our own selves.
“Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quietly leave us.” …Henry Nowen
Lord, we thank you
for the times when we have been able to share deeply with a friend
and something that was holding back our spiritual growth left us.
We knew that Jesus of Nazareth was with us.
Lord, prayer is a moment when we pass
from experiencing the teaching of Jesus as something vague
to knowing that it has authority behind it,
it gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey it.
Lord, a movement will spread
only of it moves from teaching in a closed room
to casting out the unclean spirits which are oppressing society.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Matthew
Introduction to the Celebration
In today’s gospel we hear of the reactions of people on encountering Jesus when they were gathered as a community: they encountered him as a brother, as a unique teacher, and as the Holy One of God. In our gathering today we are encountering him as our brother, our teacher, and the Holy One of God who is calling us together to share his supper.
1. Hearing the story about the possessed man brings a shiver to some of us, and a wry smile for others. For some, it is the tingly fringe of religion, an unsettling fear, and brings to mind films about possession or exorcism. This is where faith meets the eerie and the weird. For others, this is part of the historical dross that comes with Christianity having arisen before the modern psychiatry: it is just one more bit that needs to be dumped. For most people in an average congregation it will just be an item that does not seem important one way or the other: another bit of religion that just slips over us.
2. It is probably worthwhile acknowledging this range of reactions in the congregation. All too often people imagine that they, as individuals, are the only ones who have such reactions to the readings, and imagine that for the priest there are no such problems. This suspicion then breeds a form of alienation that makes people feel that they ‘deep down’ do not belong in the gathering.
3. So what can we learn from this passage despite our reactions to the exorcism? The whole passage is in the gospel to help a small group of Christians in the latter half of the first century to understand who Jesus is whom they are confessing to be ‘The Holy One of God.’ We can take ‘Holy One of God,’ the ‘Anointed One,’ and ‘The Christ’ to be just different forms of the same reality. Mark intended his preaching to be heard by the group when they gathered for the sacred meal which united them with one another and with the risen Christ, and so our hearing this gospel today is hearing it in a more formalised version of its original setting. So what aspect of faith in Jesus did Mark want to emphasise? Here lies the key to the passage: he wanted the gatherings to have an adequate appreciation of Jesus as the Christ.
4. Note that we are concerned with an adequate – adequate for us to realise that he is the Way – not a complete understanding: such might be possible in heaven, but never on earth. All the saints can testify that after a life-long pilgrimage of faith,they are just scratching the surface in understanding the significance of the Christ.
5. Mark was concerned that people hearing about Jesus might just imagine him as another preacher – so he adds that the people who encountered him were struck by his uniqueness: he was a teacher like no other. But Mark, equally, did not want people to think of him just as the greatest teacher: Jesus having come among us does the Father’s will, he liberates people from their demons, and he brings new life. But Mark, yet again, does not want Jesus just seen as a wonder-worker, a magician, so people must keep all these insights and try to understand them at the foot of the Cross. Only when we follow the teacher, the liberator, the one who suffered, and the one who rose from the dead do we start to imagine the mystery of the Holy One of God.
6. Getting some grasp of who we encounter in Jesus the Christ is the work of a lifetime. Sadly, many people think they know all about him. Our reflections here do not tell us who Jesus is; they merely attune us to being aware of the Holy One who encounters us in our loves, our trials, our fears, our talents,our demons, and right now in our gathering, our praying together, and our sharing in his banquet.
Let the Reader Understand
A dominant aspect of Jesus’ work in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom in Mark is his role as a teacher and this is particularly evident in the early chapters. Here we see his teaching making a deep impression on his hearers and they respond with wonder and astonishment. In this teaching Jesus was, no doubt, speaking of God’s will for the world in terms that were easily understood by his hearers. Added to this, his action of exorcis ing demons can be understood as a way of indicating the triumph of good over evil and showing that now is the time to respond with faith to God’s action in the world. The prevalence of exorcisms in the gospels is not to be taken as suggesting there was more demonic possession then than now. It is more likely that these accounts reflect ancient views around a range of illnesses that are more easily diagnosed nowadays.
In this age of information technology and instant access to information and entertainment, we probably appreciate more than ever the worth of a really good teacher. It is an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that can easily be lost sight of, and that is a pity because it is more important that we understand his message than that we believe he was a miracle worker. As disciples we are challenged to continue to grow in understanding, to sit at the feet of Jesus the teacher and to take steps to make our own the wonderful good news of the kingdom. By being properly informed, we are less likely to be led astray by the whole range of ‘false prophets’ who today compete for our allegiance.