Commentary on this Sunday’s Lectionary Readings by Sr. Mary McGlone, Fr. Clement Thibodeau, and Fr. Eamon Tobin; tips for lectors by Paul J. Schlachter and Greg Warnusz; exegesis and bible study with Richard Niell Donavan and Michal E. Hunt; and more.
4B Ordinary Time
The Gospel’s core question
by Sr. Mary M. McGlone — 2018
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?” That’s the first question put to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark. It is really the core question of the Gospel. What are we to make of the fact that Mark puts that question in the mouth of an unclean spirit? To make matters worse, the demon got everything right by calling Jesus the Holy One of God and accusing him of having come to destroy evil spirits.
How did all of this strike the astute people of God in the synagogue? Mark tells us they were amazed and asked each other, “What is this?” Why was it was so easy for Jesus’ enemies and so hard for potential disciples to understand who Jesus was and what he was about?
Perhaps it’s the difference between our reactions when we are in danger or asked for a commitment. The defeated unclean spirit who spoke for the demon world knew the jig was up. The Holy One of God was stronger than all the demons. Everything about Jesus made it clear that it was only a matter of time before divine love would reveal their utter impotence. Meanwhile, the ordinary people who were not threatened stood around with their jaws dropping. It was too soon to make up their minds; they weren’t ready to make a commitment for or against Jesus.
Although the demons perceived clearly that Jesus was their conqueror, Mark doesn’t make that the centerpiece of this incident. It takes a while for human beings to get the picture, so Mark presents Jesus as a teacher with a brand new pedagogy. Jesus called people to hope for the kingdom of God, and then he showed them exactly what it looked like. His method was enticing rather than overpowering. His was all about freeing people.
As the folks were trying to get a handle on who Jesus was, they compared him to their religious leaders. The scribes were the official teachers of the day, the ones who had studied and interpreted the meaning of the Scriptures. They were religious professionals. Jesus simply professed faith — in word and deed.
Jesus astounded the people because he didn’t just talk about the law, he made God’s love tangible. There’s no other explanation for why some people simply dropped everything to follow him. Jesus’ “authority” came through in his actions. Therefore, his appearance on the scene — on any scene — raised the same question: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?”
Each of us must answer that question — probably more than once in our lives. Today’s responsorial psalm has us challenge ourselves four times over: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” While those gawking bystanders in the synagogue didn’t make any commitments after seeing and hearing Jesus, they did allow themselves to be curious. That was a necessary first step. They were letting their hearts be vulnerable. In the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis says: “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is … a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” (#2). Francis quotes Pope Paul VI and says “our “technological society has succeeded in multiplying occasions of pleasure, yet has found it very difficult to engender joy” (#7). When Jesus showed people what the kingdom of God felt like he was whetting their appetite for joy.
Mark wrote his Gospel to instruct us about the Teacher. He knew that even those disciples who left everything behind had a long road ahead of them before they would understand just what it was that Jesus of Nazareth would do with them. Perhaps the challenge of today is not so much to make a new commitment, but to let our hearts be shaken. Rereading the Gospel of Mark, we are invited to look again at Jesus the Teacher who put every word of his preaching into action. We are invited to remember the moments when we felt his invitation and wanted to give him our all. Francis’ words call us to ask what might be dulling our hearts, drugging us into a complacency that accepts pleasure instead of seeking joy.
We’ve already heard the answer to the demon’s frightened “What have you to do with us?” It is the only thing we have heard Jesus teach up to this point in Mark’s Gospel. He’s making us an offer and we must choose to accept or refuse: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel!”
©2018 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections and 2018 archive can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
4B Ordinary Time
I will put my words into your mouth
- In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses conveys God’s word to the people.
- The promise of God delivered by Moses is that God will raise up another prophet.
- The true prophet will deliver God’s word.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴 OUR SUNDAY VISITOR INTRO 🔴🔴🔴 FIRST READING 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
Proclamation Tips for Lectors
🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫 LECTOR’S NOTES 🟫🟫 FIRST READING 🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. CLEMENT 🟨🟨 FIRST READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. TOBIN 🟨🟨 FIRST READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 SR. McGLONE 🟨🟨 FIRST READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 PASTORAL PERSPECTIVE 🟥🟥 FIRST READING 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 THEOLOGY OF WORK 🟥🟥 FIRST READING 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 LIFE RECOVERY COMMENTARY 🟩🟩 FIRST READING 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
Moses promises a future prophet
In the First Reading from Moses’ last series of homilies to the children of Israel, he tells the people God will send another prophet as a future lawgiver and covenant mediator. Moses tells the people the future prophet will speak the word of God, and God commands them to listen to him and obey.
OFFICES OF PRIEST, PROPHET, AND KING
In Genesis 20:7, King Abimelech called Abraham a prophet. The Gentile king considered Abraham to have a privileged standing before his God and was, therefore, a powerful intercessor. The prophet is one of three authoritative offices of the covenant people of those anointed to serve God and His people in the offices of prophets, priests, and kings:
- Do not touch my anointed ones, to my prophets you may do no harm (Ps 105:15 NJB).
- You will dress your brother Aaron and his sons in these; you will then anoint them, invest them, and consecrate them to serve me in the priesthood (Ex 28:41 NJB).
- Samuel said to Saul, “I am the man whom Yahweh sent to anoint you as king of his people Israel” (1 Sam 15:1 NJB).
Jesus Christ came to fulfill all three holy offices of prophet, priest, and king in a new and eternal Covenant (CCC 436, 1547).
GOD WILL SEND ANOTHER PROPHET LIKE MOSES
In our First Reading, God’s prophet Moses reminds the children of Israel how terrified they were to experience the Theophany of God at Mt. Sinai. They begged Moses to act as their mediator in conveying God’s messages in a less frightening way (Ex 19:16-25; 20:18-19). God agreed to their petition, and Moses became the mediator of the Sinai Covenant. God promises the covenant people that one day He will send another prophet like Moses. He also defines how the people will know if God legitimately sends a prophet:
- He had to be an Israelite.
- He must only speak the words God put in his mouth.
- He was required to teach the people with authority.
- He had to be 100% accurate in his teachings (in agreement with the Law) and his prophecies, or he was not a true prophet.
God’s prophet had a duty to the people, but the people also had an obligation to the prophet. They had to listen to God’s prophet and obey, or they would face divine judgment. If the prophet proved to be false, his punishment was death (Dt 18:20).
JESUS AS THE PROMISED PROPHET
Since the passage speaks of the future prophet like Moses in the singular (verses 15, 18-19), both Jewish and Christian tradition see this passage as referring to the promised Redeemer-Messiah of Genesis 3:15 and the one promised by the prophets. The New Testament Gospels identify Jesus with the promised prophet, who is the new Moses:
- The Temple hierarchy sent a delegation of priests and Levites to question John the Baptism and ask him if he was the promised prophet (Jn 1:19-21).
- The Samaritan woman recognized that Jesus was a prophet (Jn 4:19).
- After Jesus fed the over 5,000 men on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Seeing the sign that he had done, the people said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn 6:14).
- When Jesus rode into Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecies of Jacob-Israel and the prophet Zechariah (Gen 49:11 and Zec 9:9), the people shouted the messianic greeting, “Hosanna to the son of David.” And other people asked, “Who is this man,” the Jewish crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in the Galilee” (Mt 21:10-11).
For Christians, a single event in the Gospels unquestionably reveals that Jesus isn’t just “a prophet,” but He is the promised prophet in Deuteronomy 18:18-19. God’s command in Deuteronomy is that the people must listen to the prophet like Moses that He will send to speak His words. On the Mt. of Transfiguration, when Jesus revealed Himself in His glory to the Apostles Peter, James, and John in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the Apostles heard a voice from heaven commanding: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him” (Mt 17:5; emphasis added; also see Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35). The command to “listen,” found in all three Synoptic Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration, is the same command to “listen” in Deuteronomy 18:19. Also, Jesus testified to the divine origin of His words when He said: “And the word that you hear is not my own: it is the word of the Father who sent me” (Jn 14:24) in fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy that the future prophet like him would speak the word of God.
Jesus also revealed to the Jewish crowd that He was the prophet Moses prophesied and wrote about in Deuteronomy 18:18-19. Jesus said: “Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father: you have placed your hopes on Moses, and Moses will be the one who accuses you. If you really believed him, you would believe me too, since it was about me that he was writing; but if you will not believe what he wrote, how can you believe what I say?” (Jn 5:45-47).
And, in his teaching at the Temple after Pentecost, St. Peter spoke of the promise of Christ’s Second Coming and referred to the prophecy of “a prophet like Moses” in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Peter told the Jewish crowd: “Then he will send you the Christ he has predestined, that is Jesus, whom heaven must keep till the universal restoration comes which God proclaimed, speaking through his holy prophets. Moses, for example, said, ‘From among your brothers the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me; you will listen to whatever he tells you. Anyone who refuses to listen to that prophet shall be cut off from the people.’ In fact, all the prophets that have ever spoken, from Samuel onwards, have predicted these days” (Acts 3:20-24 NJB). Later, addressing the Sanhedrin and giving his witness of Jesus as the Messiah, St. Stephen referred to the same prophecy (Acts 7:37).
RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROPHET
The prophet was God’s representative to the people when the civil and religious authorities neglected to fulfill their duties as holy leaders. In the name of God, the prophets chastised priests and kings who failed the covenant people, like the prophets Samuel (1 Sam 3:19-4:1) and Nathan (2 Sam 12:1-15). They also called down the judgments of covenant lawsuits upon an apostate covenant people like the prophets Isaiah (Is 1:2-4; 34:8), Jeremiah (Jer 1:16; 11:1-8), Ezekiel (Ez 11:10-12; 17:19-21), Hosea (2:4/2-15/13; 12:3/2), and Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 24:31-36). Jesus Christ is God’s supreme prophet, whose words are the pathway to life for all who hear and obey! The Virgin Mary gave the best advice for us in this regard when she told the servants at the wedding at Cana: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5)!
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4B Ordinary Time
Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
The people’s response to the prophetic word must be one of total acceptance.
God’s voice in our lives
The refrain the community sings with our responsorial psalm takes us back to the Exodus, the journey Moses had just completed in the setting of the first reading. But like all the psalms, it has applications far beyond its historical context. The basic thrust of Psalm 95 calls us to reverence the God to whom we owe our existence and salvation.
We repeat: “If today you hear his voice…” That not only drives home the content of the psalm, but reflects on the most basic attitudes called forth by our scriptural tradition. It reminds us that we believe that God speaks to us continuously through Scripture and tradition, through people and cultures and all of creation. (For further reflection, read the papal encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”)
Our God is not a mythical god, someone to learn about as we might learn about Caesar. Our God invites us into personal relationship, into an experience of love that illuminates and far outshines dogma. When we sing “If today you hear his voice,” we remind ourselves to be on the lookout, to be listening all day long. Then, based on that belief, we tell ourselves, “harden not your heart.” That reminds us to cultivate a heart of flesh, to be vulnerable to God’s word and revelation.
We express loving vulnerability as we bow down and kneel before God. Those ancient gestures express the idea that we are thoroughly disarmed; they speak in body language to say that we put ourselves in God’s hands and at God’s disposal. Performing those gestures helps us deepen the attitudes they symbolize.
The psalm’s reference to God as the rock of our salvation and to Meribah and Massah, recall Exodus 17, the story of how the people lost hope in God and complained that they were about to die of thirst. While their complaint seems most natural, their salvation came from an unimaginable source: Moses, following God’s instruction, struck a rock with his staff causing life-saving water to flow freely for them.
As we sing today’s refrain, we are invited to remember when and how we have heard God’s voice in our lives. To listen well, we must also allow God’s word to reach our heart and thus come to unique expression in whatever we do today and for the rest of our lives.
©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections, 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.
🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴 INTRODUCTION 🔴🔴🔴 PSALM 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 THEOLOGY OF WORK 🟥🟥 PSALM 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 LIFE RECOVERY COMMENTARY 🟩🟩 PSALM 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦 AGAPE BIBLE STUDY 🟦🟦 PSALM 🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦🟦
In the Responsorial Psalm, we hear the invitation to come to the Lord in the liturgy of worship. The psalm’s theme is that God is our Divine King and Creator who nourishes and guides us as a shepherd cares for his flock. The psalm’s message for us is, like sheep that know their shepherd’s voice and responded in trust and obedience by coming to him, we must recognize and trust the voice of Christ calling us to salvation.
In the opening two verses, the psalmist gives an invitation to come to the Lord in worship, an invitation he will repeat in verse 6. The invitation suggests this was a psalm that faithful pilgrims sang on the journey to the Jerusalem Temple. Verses 6-7a express the psalm’s theme: God is our Divine King and Creator who nourishes and guides us as a shepherd cares for his flock.
In verse 7b, we hear the voice of God speaking to His people, calling them to listen to His voice today! It is a message that echoes down through salvation history. Verses 8-10 carry God’s warning to all generations that those who hear His voice. They must not act like the children of Israel when they tested Him in the wilderness journey out of Egypt at Meribah (Ex 17:1-7) and Massah (Num 20:2-13). On both occasions, the Israelites hardened their hearts against God. They “tempted” and “tested” Him by questioning His goodness and fidelity and attempted to force Him to act in their favor as if His previous deeds and acts of mercy were not enough to prove His love for the people. Do not test God in your unbelief; be faithful, obedient, and believe!
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4B Ordinary Time
I want you to be free of all worries
1 Cor 7:32-35
- Some of the early Christian communities found Paul to be a true prophet.
- The Christians at Corinth apparently wrote to Paul, asking him a series of practical questions about how to live the Christian life.
- The First Letter to the Corinthians is Paul’s answer to their questions.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴 OUR SUNDAY VISITOR INTRO 🔴🔴🔴 SECOND READING 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
Proclamation Tips for Lectors
🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫 LECTOR’S NOTES 🟫🟫 SECOND READING 🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. CLEMENT 🟨🟨 SECOND READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. TOBIN 🟨🟨 SECOND READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 SR. McGLONE 🟨🟨 SECOND READING 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE 🟥🟥 SECOND READING 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 THEOLOGY OF WORK 🟥🟥 SECOND READING 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 LIFE RECOVERY COMMENTARY 🟩🟩 SECOND READING 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
Living without anxiety in service to the Lord
In the Second Reading, St. Paul, empowered by the Holy Spirit, taught with that same authority. He received his commission to preach the Gospel of salvation from Jesus and the mission to bring the “Light of Christ” to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). St. Paul obediently preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a tutor and guide to Christian communities across Asia Minor and Greece on their journeys to eternal salvation.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PAUL OFFERS HIS OPINION ON CELIBACY
Writing in the spring of AD 57, St. Paul tells the Corinthian Christians in 1 Cor 7:25 that he has no direction from the Lord in these matters but is giving his opinion. He believed it best for Christians to remain as they were: the married to stay married and the celibate to remain celibate (1 Cor 7:26-28). Paul also expressed the opinion that in answering the call to devote one’s life to the Lord, it is a commitment better achieved in a state of celibacy to not have a heart divided between the Lord and family obligations.
JESUS RAISES QUESTION OF CELIBACY
In Matthew chapter 19, Jesus also raised the question of a consecrated celibacy when He said: “Some are incapable of marriage … because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Mt 19:12 NAB). For this reason, the Latin Rite of the Church requests the commitment of a celibate priesthood as a discipline of greater devotion.
The Catechism teaches: “All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate ‘for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.’ Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to ‘the affairs of the Lord,’ they give themselves entirely to God and to men. Celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church’s minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart, celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God” (CCC 1579 quoting Mt 19:12 and 1 Cor 7:32). Catholic priests in the Latin Rite live in imitation of Christ, who was Himself celibate. The Church also welcomes the service of consecrated virgins who live together in a life of chastity in service to God and humanity in imitation of the Virgin Mary, who was a virgin her entire life (see CCC 1618-20).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4B Ordinary Time
He has authority over all creation
- The Gospels reveal Jesus to be the true prophet, the one who not only brings the word of God but who is the Word of God.
- In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, there are several stories illustrating Jesus’ authority.
- Today’s passage tells of Jesus casting out a demon. The people are amazed because the demon obeys Jesus.
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴 OUR SUNDAY VISITOR INTRO 🔴🔴🔴 GOSPEL 🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴🔴
🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫 LECTOR’S NOTES 🟫🟫 GOSPEL READING 🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫🟫
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. CLEMENT 🟨🟨 GOSPEL 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. TOBIN 🟨🟨 GOSPEL 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 SR. McGLONE 🟨🟨 GOSPEL 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨 FR. SIGMA 🟨🟨 GOSPEL 🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨🟨
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 CHURCH’S LIVING TRADITION 🟥🟥 GOSPEL 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 PASTORAL PERSPECTIVE 🟥🟥 GOSPEL 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 CONTEMPORARY SIGNIFICANCE 🟥🟥 GOSPEL 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥 THEOLOGY OF WORK 🟥🟥 GOSPEL 🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥🟥
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 LIFE RECOVERY COMMENTARY 🟩🟩 GOSPEL 🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩
Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue and Cures a Demon-Possessed Man
In the Gospel Reading, the people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching because He “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Jesus taught them with a true understanding of Scripture and the need for the necessary application of God’s words in their lives. Even those possessed by demon-spirits recognized His authority. Jesus is the promised prophet greater than Moses from the First Reading, and He is the supreme prophet, lawgiver, and covenant mediator of a new and greater covenant (Heb 8:6, 13; 9:15; 12:24; CCC 1962, 1964, 1965).
OBSERVING SABBATH OBLIGATION
After His baptism by John the Baptist in Perea on the east side of the Jordan River (Mk 1:9-11; Jn 1:28) and His temptation (Mk 1:12-13), Jesus traveled north to the region of the Galilee and the fishing village of Capernaum. The covenant people worshipped, prayed, and offered their sacrifices at the liturgical worship services that took place twice daily, seven days a week, at God’s holy Jerusalem Temple. They could also observe the Sabbath obligation at their local village Synagogue when they prayed as a community and studied Scripture. As a faithful member of the covenant community, Jesus kept the Sabbath obligation in the Capernaum Synagogue. Our New Covenant worship services have elements of both the Synagogue and the Temple. We study the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word and take part in the sacrifice by coming forward to the holy altar to offer our lives to Christ and receiving His gift of grace in the Eucharist.
TWO GROUPS CHALLENGED JESUS
In verse 22, the people compared Jesus’ teaching to the scribes. Unlike the scribes, Jesus taught with authority and a genuine understanding of Sacred Scripture. The scribes and Pharisees were part of the Old Covenant religious leadership. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, these two groups continually challenged Jesus’ teaching authority.
- The scribes were usually Levites (the lesser ministers who served the chief priests) and received training as teachers of the Law. The Pharisees were the most influential religious sect in first-century AD Judea, and many scribes aligned themselves with the Pharisees.
- The Pharisees were strict interpreters of the Law and considered themselves more righteous than the ordinary covenant members they held in contempt. They also controlled the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court. Jesus will severely chastise the Pharisees for their lack of charity and hypocrisy on His last teaching day in Jerusalem before His Passion when He calls them a “brood of vipers” (see Mt 23:1-36).
The other sects with influence in this period were the Sadducees (mostly represented by the chief priests and the Herodian aristocracy) and the ultra-conservative Essenes. The Essenes lived in cities and separate communities, dedicating themselves to asceticism, voluntary poverty, mysticism, and daily ritual immersion (baptisms of repentance and purification).
THE MAN WITH AN UNCLEAN SPIRIT
In verses 23-26, Jesus healed a man possessed by an “unclean spirit.” The “spirit” is “unclean” because it resists the holiness of God. The demon-spirit knows and fears Jesus, recognizing not only His true identity but His divine power. Demons are spiritual beings that are the fallen angels created by God to be good but who, through their own free will choice, became evil by rebelling against God to follow Satan, himself once an angel (see Rev 12:7-9 and CCC 391-95). Jesus commanded the spirit to be silent when it called out His true identity in verse 25. Jesus did not want a demon spirit to witness to His true identity. His identity had to be revealed slowly through His acts and His teachings.
THE MYSTERY OF JESUS’ TRUE IDENTITY
Many commentators see Jesus’ unfolding story in St. Mark’s Gospel as centered on the “mystery” of His true identity and the mystery of God’s divine plan that Jesus came to fulfill. The Greek word “mysterion” in the singular is used just once in Mark 4:11, and its context in that passage is the “kingdom” of Jesus Christ. “Mysterion” in the singular does not appear in the other Gospels where it only appears in the plural (Mt 13:11; Lk 8:10). The word only appears in the singular again in Romans 16:25. It is “the mystery” associated with Jesus’ true identity as the Kingdom of God incarnate and God’s reign that is breaking into the world to radically alter human life forever. Related to this revelation of the Kingdom is the sense that Jesus’ true identity must remain a secret until the climax of His mission. Concerning the mystery of Jesus’ true identity in Mark’s Gospel:
- Demons knew it and were silenced (1:44, 3:11; 5:5).
- The disciples came to understand His true identity but were warned not to reveal it (1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30).
- Jesus taught in parables to conceal His mission and identity to those “outside” the Kingdom who were not willing to understand. God only granted understanding of the mystery to those who embraced Christ with an open heart (4:10-12).
Following Jesus’ example of casting out demon spirits who torment humans, the Church has always recognized the need for freeing victim souls from the power of demon spirits through the rite of exorcism (CCC 1673). The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation offer protection from demon spirits through the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the believer.
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4B Ordinary Time
The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.
21. And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
22. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the Scribes.
PSEUDO-JEROME. Mark, arranging the sayings of the Gospel as they were in his own mind, not in themselves, quits the order of the history, and follows the order of the mysteries. Wherefore he relates the first miracle on the sabbath day, saying, And they go into Capernaum.
THEOPHYLACT. Quitting Nazareth. Now on the sabbath day, when the Scribes were gathered together, he entered into a synagogue, and taught. Wherefore there follows, And straightway on the sabbath day, having entered into the synagogue, he taught them. For for this end the Law commanded them to give themselves up to rest on the sabbath day, that they might meet together to attend to sacred reading. Again, Christ taught them by rebuke, not by flattery as did the Pharisees; wherefore it says, And they were astonished at his doctrine; for he taught them as one having power, and not as the Scribes. He taught them also in power, transforming men to good, and He threatened punishment to those who did not believe on Him.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) The Scribes themselves taught the people what was written in Moses and the Prophets: but Jesus as the God and Lord of Moses himself, by the freedom of His own will, either added those things which appeared wanting in the Law, or altered things as He preached to the people; as we read in Matthew, It was said to them of old time, but I say unto you. (Mat. 5:27)
23. And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
24. Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
25. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
26. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.
27. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him.
28. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.
BEDE. (in Marc. i. 7) Since by the envy of the devil death first entered into the world, it was right that the medicine of healing should first work against the author of death; and therefore it is said, And there was in their synagogue a man, &c.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) The word Spirit is applied to an Angel, the air, the soul, and even the Holy Ghost. Lest therefore by the sameness of the name we should fall into error, he adds, unclean. And he is called unclean on account of his impiousness and far removal from God, and because he employs himself in all unclean and wicked works.
AUGUSTINE. (de Civ. Dei, ix. 21) Moreover, how great is the power which the lowliness of God, appearing in the form of a servant, has over the pride of devils, the devils themselves know so well, that they express it to the same Lord clothed in the weakness of flesh. For there follows, And he cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus of Nazareth, &c. For it is evident in these words that there was in them knowledge, but there was not charity; and the reason was, that they feared their punishment from Him, and loved not the righteousness in Him.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) For the devils, seeing the Lord on the earth, thought that they were immediately to be judged.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Or else the devil so speaks, as if he said, ‘by taking away uncleanness, and giving to the souls of men divine knowledge, Thou allowest us no place in men.’
THEOPHYLACT. For to come out of man the devil considers as his own perdition; for devils are ruthless, thinking that they suffer some evil, so long as they are not troubling men. There follows, I know that thou art the Holy One of God.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) As if he said, Methinks that Thou art come; for he had not a firm and certain knowledge of the coming of God. But he calls Him holy not as one of many, for every prophet was also holy, but he proclaims that He was the One holy; by the article in Greek he shews Him to be the One, but by his fear he shews Him to be Lord of all.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) For He was known to them in that degree in which He wished to be known; and He wished as much as was fitting. He was not known to them as to the holy Angels, who enjoy Him by partaking of His eternity according as He is the Word of God; but as He was to be made known in terror, to those beings from whose tyrannical power He was about to free the predestinate. He was known therefore to the devils, not in that He is eternal Life, but by some temporal effects of His Power, which might be more clear to the angelic senses of even bad spirits than to the weakness of men.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Further, the Truth did not wish to have the witness of unclean spirits; wherefore there follows, And Jesus threatened him, saying, &c. Whence a healthful precept is given to us; let us not believe devils, howsoever they may proclaim the truth. It goes on, And the unclean spirit tearing him, &c. For, because the man spoke as one in his senses and uttered his words with discretion, lest it should be thought that he put together his words not from the devil but out of his own heart, He permitted the man to be torn by the devil, that He might shew that it was the devil who spoke.
THEOPHYLACT. That they might know, when they saw it, from how great an evil the man was freed, and on account of the miracle might believe.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) But it may appear to be a discrepancy, that he should have gone out of him, tearing him, or, as some copies have it, vexing him, when, according to Luke, he did not hurt him. But Luke himself says, When he had, cast him into the midst, he came out from him, without hurting him. (Luke 4:35) Wherefore it is inferred that Mark meant by vexing or tearing him, what Luke expresses, in the words, When he had cast him into the midst; so that what he goes on to say, And did not hurt him, may be understood to mean, that the tossing of his limbs and vexing, did not weaken him, as devils are wont to come out even with the cutting off and tearing away of limbs. But seeing the power of the miracle, they wonder at the newness of our Lord’s doctrine, and are roused to search into what they had heard by what they had seen. Wherefore there follows, And they all wondered &c. For miracles were done that they might more firmly believe the Gospel of the kingdom of God, which was being preached, since those who were promising heavenly joys to men on earth, were shewing forth heavenly things and divine works even on earth. For before (as the Evangelist says) He was teaching them as one who had power, and now, as the crowd witnesses, with power He commands the evil spirits, and they obey Him. (1 John 5:20. John 17:3) It goes on, And immediately His fame spread abroad, &c.
GLOSS. (non occ.) For those things which men wonder at they soon divulge, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. (Mat. 12:24)
PSEUDO-JEROME. Moreover, Capernaum is mystically interpreted the town of consolation, and the sabbath as rest. The man with an evil spirit is healed by rest and consolation, that the place and time may agree with his healing. This man with an unclean spirit is the human race, in which uncleanness reigned from Adam to Moses; for they sinned without law, and perished without law. (v. Rom. 5:14. 2:12) And he, knowing the Holy One of God, is ordered to hold his peace, for they knowing God did not glorify him as God, but rather served the creature than the Creator. (1:21.25) The spirit tearing the man came out of him. When salvation is near, temptation is at hand also. Pharaoh, when about to leti Israel go, pursues Israel; the devil, when despised, rises up to create scandals.
29. And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30. But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her.
31. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.
BEDE. (in Marc. i. 7) First, it was right that the serpent’s tongue should be shut up, that it might not spread any more venom; then that the woman, who was first seduced, should be healed from the fever of carnal concupiscence. Wherefore it is said, And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. He retired then as the custom was on the sabbath-day about evening to eat in His disciples’ house. But she who ought to have ministered was prevented by a fever. Wherefore it goes on, But Simon’s wife’s mother was lying sick of a fever.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (v. Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. c. 1:32) But the disciples, knowing that they were to receive a benefit by that means, without waiting for the evening prayed that Peter’s mother should be healed. Wherefore there follows, who immediately tell him of her.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) But in the Gospel of Luke it is written, that they besought him for her. (Luke 4:38.) For the Saviour sometimes after being asked, sometimes of His own accord, heals the sick, shewing that He always assents to the prayers of the faithful, when they pray also against bad passions, and some times gives them to understand things which they do not understand at all, or else, when they pray unto Him dutifully, forgives their want of understanding; as the Psalmist begs of God, Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret faults. (Ps. 19:12) Wherefore He heals her at their request; for there follows, And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up.
THEOPHYLACT. By this it is signified, that God will heal a sick man, if he ministers to the Saints, through love to Christ.
BEDE. (in Marc. i. 6, 8) But in that He gives most profusely His gifts of healing and doctrine on the sabbath day, He teaches, that He is not under the Law, but above the Law, and does not choose the Jewish sabbath, but the true sabbath, and our rest is pleasing to the Lord, if, in order to attend to the health of our souls, we abstain from slavish work, that is, from all unlawful things. It goes on, and immediately the fever left her, &c. The health which is conferred at the command of the Lord, returns at once entire, accompanied with such strength, that she is able to minister to those, of whose help she had before stood in need. Again, if we suppose that the man delivered from the devil means, in the moral way of interpretation, the soul purged from unclean thoughts, fitly does the woman cured of a fever by the command of God mean the flesh, restrained from the heat of its concupiscence by the precepts of continence.
PSEUDO-JEROME. For the fever means intemperance, from which, we the sons of the synagoguek, by the hand of discipline, and by the lifting up of our desires, are healed, and minister to the will of Him who heals us.
THEOPHYLACT. But he has a fever who is angry, and in the unruliness of his anger stretches forth his hands to do hurt; but if reason restrains his hands, he will arise, and so serve reason.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
Introductory video to this Sunday by Larry Broding at Word-Sunday.com.
Directions: On this page you will find questions on the Sunday Readings that can be used in RCIA or Faith Sharing groups. Clicking on the PDF icons at bottom right will give participants additional commentary and resources.
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Turn back to God: Believe the Good News
Do you seek prophetic voices, messages from God to guide your life? Where do you find such voices? What is the cost of following a prophetic voice?
Have you ever been in prayer, only to be upset when you were disturbed? Why were you so upset?
The next time you are in prayer, take a moment to realize that even the closest times to God are times temptation can rear its ugly head. Resist the temptation to ignore or correct others in the name of “quality time” with the Lord.
How does your life status help you to focus on the Lord? How does it hinder you? How can you use this hindrance as a means to holiness?
When was the last time you heard a powerful speech? Or saw an amazing feat? How did these events impress you?
When was the last time you had a moment of grace: a time of divine insight and healing? Was that time a signpost in your life? Are you still affected by that graced moment? Explain.
What word would you like to hear God speak? How would you like to be healed? Take a few moments this week to listen to God and prepare yourself for his loving touch.
©1999-2021 Larry Broding. Material may be copied for personal use or for use in any non-profit ministry. Materials may not be sold or used for personal financial gain.
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Small Group Questions
by Fr. Eamon Tobin
1. Share with the group or person next to you what spoke to you most in the Gospel. With this first question try to refrain from commenting on what others said. Just share what spoke to you and then move on to the next person.
2. Who ‘speaks with authority’ in your life? Whose witness to the Gospel inspires you?
3. Who or what are some inner demons or voices that can inhabit our lives? What helps you to deal with them?
4. Have you experienced Jesus’ healing, love and mercy in your life? If so, in what ways?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
RESPONDING TO GOD’S WORD: Share with the person next to you one way you can act on this week’s readings. Suggestion: Seek to be aware of evil forces that may seek to distract you from being focused on following the ways of Jesusl.
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.
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by Fr. Clement Thibodeau
- Does it have first priority, second priority, or none at all?
- What could give the word of God more authority?
- What can you and your family (or group) do to grant more authority to the word of God?How can you enhance the word of the Gospel so that people will recognize it as the word of Christ who speaks through the Church?
2. What authority do the teachings of the Church (or doctrine) have in your life?
- Do you recognize the infallible teachings of the Church as coming from Christ himself?
- Do you recognize the teachings of the catechism as the official teachings of the Church?
- How do you distinguish between infallible teachings and everything else in the catechism? (If you don’t know the answer,ask the parish priest or the catechetical leader in your parish.)
3. Have you prayed over the word of God and over Church teachings, asking God to grant you discernment and understanding?
- Has prayer ever helped you to know what God wants from you?
- Do you think that God will leave you in the dark as to what his will is for you?
© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.
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Bible Study Questions
by Vince Contreras
1. In the 1st Reading, Moses predicts to the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land that there will someday arise after him a prophet like himself. What are the characteristics of this prophet, and how do they find their fulfillment in Jesus?
2. Where did Jesus begin his public ministry? What two things about Jesus amazed the people?
3. How do imagine this scene unfolded? Was the demoniac part of the congregation, or did he burst in from the outside? What do you think was the reaction of the rest of the congregation: Compassion? Embarrassment? Anger? What would your reaction be?
4. What does it mean to teach “as one having authority” (verse 22)? What was the source of Jesus’ authority (see John 5:19-24)?
5. Did Jesus heal every person in Israel at that time, or even in every city he visited during his earthly ministry? Why do you think that Jesus healed the people that he did?
6. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much authority does Jesus have over your life?