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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Homily. Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28.

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Green Stole and Gospel
Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28


THEME OF THE READINGS
Christ, the Eternal Word of the Father, is an authority unto himself (First Reading). He comes into the world and enters the hearts of his eager hearers through his teaching. He also liberates those possessed by demons with the power of his word. We are called to heed the Word and not to harden our hearts, as the Jews did at Meribah, but to greet him with thanksgiving (Responsorial Psalm).

DOCTRINAL MESSAGE
In true Marcan style, the Gospel presents us with glimpses of Christ. It shows Christ keeping his audience “spellbound by his teaching because he taught with authority and not like the scribes.” Christ’s voice commands awe and respect, because it is the Word of God that spoke, “making its own rounds, seeking those worthy of it, and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets them with all solicitude” (Wisdom 6:16). When Christ commands the demon to leave the possessed man, he makes no reference to the long, complicated exorcism rite common amongst the Jews of the time. That old Jewish rite, like all exorcism rites is two-fold: it implores God’s action and then, in God’s name, commands the demon to depart. Christ has no need of this, because he is the Word and hence authority itself. He has no need to implore God’s authority – he is God. Christ knew this, and so did the demon. If the demon wasn’t certain about Christ’s identity before the exorcism, he surely discovered it when he met his match in the Holy One of God. The demon’s torment becomes wonder for the people. Christ’s new, authoritative teaching was not lost on his hearers, for his reputation spread throughout Galilee.

But enough about Christ’s authority over demons, let’s talk about its relation to us.

Christ not only imparts truth to us in his teaching, he also gives us the help we need to understand and accept it. A good but merely human teacher works from outside, and hopes his message will enter us. Christ’s word, on the other hand, can enter inside us and reach our minds and hearts if we let him; with our assent, it can clear all obstacles and permit us to fully accept the truth of his word. His action is intimate and profound, reaching every dark and hidden part of our minds and hearts. He even moves our souls to help us accept his word and act upon it.

Christ’s teaching is acceptable only through the gift of faith. No amount of human reasoning, even by the brightest of minds, equals a humble act of faith by the simplest of souls. Christ offers the gift of faith which “comes by hearing,” as St. Paul says. Christ did not only merit for us the theological virtue of faith and the other virtues and gifts, he also obtains them for us and produces them in us – if we so choose. While Christ imparts his teaching to us through the Gospel, the Church, and our study of the truth, he is acting in our souls at the same time, enabling his word to take root in us and grow. He gives us the sensus fidei, a sort of intuition of divine things (cf. LG n.12). This is God at work in a soul faced with the truth. He moves our intellects with the gift of faith, and enlightens them with the gift of the Holy Spirit called understanding.

The Holy Spirit enlightens our intellect with the gift of wisdom, and Christ concurrently enkindles in our will the fire of divine love (caritas) so that his word would be not only known, but loved as well. This is best seen when Christ taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Here, wisdom aroused charity in them, causing them to exclaim “Did not our hearts burn within us while he spoke along the way?”

Such is the authority of the Word.

PASTORAL APPLICATIONS
St. Therese of Lisieux says “the Teacher of teachers instructs without sounds or words, and though I have never heard him speak, yet I know he is within me, always guiding and inspiring me; and just when I need them, lights until now unseen, break in upon me.” If we are in a state of grace, and our wills are disposed to be taught by Christ, Christ readily acts. Christ’s Spirit instructs our souls, fulfilling his promise that “The Paraclete, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and remind you of all everything I have taught you” (John 14:26).

The Word comes to us, and the Holy Spirit, living in our souls, helps us to live the Word’s desires – even down to the banalities of daily life. But in order to ensure that none of this is left to our subjective tendencies, imagination, natural inclinations, or prejudices, Christ gives us the Church. “The Church,” says De Lubac “is Christ in time.” He has entrusted the Church with the task of preserving his doctrine and transmitting it unaltered and complete.

Since Christ is our Lord and Teacher, we must accept everything he says. All salvific truths taught and revealed by Christ have been deposited in the Church. His word is active within the Church, present in the Gospels, and at work deep within our consciences.

It is not enough for us to have the treasure of our Catholic Faith, we have to explore it, to profit from it. That done, we conform ourselves to it, “occupied with pleasing the Lord.”
 

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