Jaime L. WatersDecember 17, 2020
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Today we hear about the power of teaching and preaching. In the readings, Moses, Paul and Jesus offer perspectives on issues they believed were important for their communities.

He taught them as one having authority. (Mk 1:22)

Liturgical day
FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)
Readings
Dt 18:15-20; Ps 95; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28
Prayer

Who are your teachers?

What can you do to increase your knowledge and understanding?

How can you impart wisdom in the world?

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the Israelites about a future prophet. Moses reminds his community that they requested an intermediary between themselves and God at Mt. Horeb (Sinai), and Moses affirms that in the future there would be prophets like him. Moses is often interpreted as the prophet par excellence, and he assures the Israelites that true prophets can and will be distinguished from false prophets. Moses assures the Israelites that they will continue to have guidance after his death.

Paul’s teachings in 1 Corinthians are a continuation of last Sunday’s second reading. Recall that Paul is focused on the return of Christ, contrasting that concern with the typical worries of the world. In today’s reading, Paul stresses that the Corinthians should be free of anxieties. Both married and unmarried people, in Paul’s view, need to focus on preparing themselves for judgment. The second reading should not be misinterpreted to support disregard of family matters. Instead, the reading simply emphasizes devotion to God.

The Gospel gives an example of how Jesus preaches, through words and actions. The passage occurs after Jesus has called his first followers. They enter the synagogue, where Jesus both preaches and casts out demons. These actions would be surprising and compelling to many, as they provide evidence of Jesus’ divine authority. Once Jesus reveals this power, “his fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

One aspect that might be curious in the Gospel is Jesus’ exchange with the unclean spirit. The spirit recognizes Jesus as the Holy One of God, and Jesus rebukes him, insisting on silence. There are a few possible reasons for this rebuke. Jesus might not want the spirit speaking his name aloud because using a name was sometimes viewed as a sign of power over someone or something. Likewise, the secrecy could be because Jesus is not ready for everyone to know who he is just yet. This concern with secrecy will recur in other Gospel readings during this liturgical year.

Today’s readings remind us of the importance of having good teachers whose authority is trustworthy. The readings also remind us to be attentive to what we see and hear and to critically evaluate the world in order to learn and grow.

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