Homily for IV (4) Sunday Year B. 31-01-2021 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm: Psalm 94 (95): 1-2, 6-9
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Gospel: Mark 1:21-28
In our first reading today, we find the important Old Testament figure Moses, who prophesies to Israel the promise of the Lord to raise from and for them a prophet just like himself. We notice his humility at play here in acknowledging the fact that his leadership over God’s people would not last forever. What a contrast to our political leadership today that desires to perpetuate itself in government for eternity! No doubt he was a great and charismatic leader, but he did not think himself indispensable in God’s project. A man of deep and unrestrained faith in God, Moses knew that God’s promise would surely see the light of day since God’s Word is eternally true. This prophetic promise we see fulfilled today with Jesus in the gospel reading, which is why the evangelists constantly portray Him as not just another leader of God’s people but a second Moses. As Moses was persecuted at birth by King Pharaoh and later had to flee into exile, Jesus also is persecuted at birth by King Herod and had to flee to Egypt. Moses gave the Law to the people on Mount Sinai just as Christ would also give His sermon on the Mount. And today when we see Him go to the synagogue teaching with authority, we see Him acting just like Moses the teacher. He is to teach us all that God has commanded. What He speaks therefore is the Word of God, and as God says, ‘the man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to it.’ We must therefore listen to Him and obey Him. Ask yourself today then, do you listen to the word of God? When we listen to His Word, we are transformed like the demoniac who is being set free in the gospel reading today.
We witness in the gospel Jesus’ first miracle in the account of Mark, where we once again see the power of His Word at work. As soon as He enters the Synagogue and begins to teach, the people experience a transformation because of the uniqueness in His manner of teaching. Mark qualifies it by saying ‘it made a deep impression on the people.’ In sharp contrast to the scribes who taught in reference to famous rabbis, Jesus teaches with authority derived from Himself. This is because He was teaching the Word of God which He is. As the incarnate Word therefore, we can say that He was teaching about Himself. And so, it is not strange that He taught with power and authority. Do you believe there is power and authority in the Word of God? If you do, you too can make use of that power and authority. That is the secret.
The Word of God approached with faith, carries with it God’s spirit which is the source of life with which God created everything that exists as we find in the creation accounts in Genesis. So, God’s Word has power and authority, and with faith it is capable of bringing into being whatever it decrees. In this regard, we are warned by the psalmist ‘if today you would listen to His voice, harden not your hearts.’ Hardness of heart is refusal to believe in God and His Word. Such lack of faith can render us incapable of experiencing the transforming power of His Word. But, if we can heed this warning and approach God’s Word with faith, then our lives would also be transformed like that of the demoniac today and we will be set free from the clutches of evil and sin. True, faith is God’s gift but it requires our co-operation when we open our hearts and surrender our wills to accept whatever He decides for us in our lives. Are you willing to surrender your will to God? If someone possessed by an unclean spirit can, you can as well if only you are willing to. So, what is stopping you? Know that God is ready and readily waiting for you.
It is incredibly strange that the people whom Christ taught did not recognize Him, and rather ironically, it is the evil spirits that first recognize and confess Him as Jesus of Nazareth and the Holy One of God. Christ rebukes them nevertheless, and they obey promptly. If the devils obey Him, it does not only teach us that God is the greatest and most powerful but also that to be saved, it is not just enough to see Christ, because even the devils saw Him. It is not enough to know about Him, because the devils also knew about Him, neither is it enough to confess Him. After all, the devils also acclaimed Him Jesus and the Holy One of God, but He still rebuked them. Why? Because the devils do not love Christ and so cannot carry out the will of God. That is why Christ says ‘not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21).’ The one who truly knows God is transformed by that knowledge in the manner they live their lives in love doing God’s will. Do you do the will of God or your will? You can if you truly love God.
During the temptation of Christ in Mark 4:1-11 we see the devil also quote psalm 91, but that does not make him an angel any more than carrying the bible and going to Church makes one a Christian. God does not want eye or lip service but true service. Our Christianity is empty if it remains at the level of words or even actions that do not flow from the will of God. That Divine Will is expressed in the greatest commandment Jesus gave us, ‘love’ (Mark 12:30-31), because without love we cannot do the will of God. When we truly love Him, it becomes a lot easier to give Him our undivided attention even as His servants. Therefore, our Christianity lies in the life of faith shown in the quality of love we live and share with others, since we serve a God who Himself is love. Hence, a Christian who lives a life no matter how grandiose but devoid of God’s love amounts to nothing, and Christ will cast us away from His presence on the last day as He does to the devils today. So, ask yourself, do you have the love of God in you, or is it love of self? Love of self cannot lead to love of neighbour, only love of God can. Let us ask the good Lord to open our eyes of faith to see Him everywhere we go, and our intellects to know Him, and may He give us the faith and courage to confess Him fearlessly, and the will to love Him in others, especially in the most vulnerable members of the human community, that is, the unborn. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.