Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

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“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”  Jesus rebuked him and said,  “Quiet! Come out of him!”

OPENING PRAYER

Help Me To Know

You gift me with all the good gifts that make me the person you created me to be. Help me to know and find your will and to trust that you will help me to understand the path you call me to journey in life. Where there is doubt give me courage. Give me a heart open to your quiet voice so I can hear your call to me. Help me to know your faithfulness and help me to be faithful to that which you call me to.  

We ask this and all things through Christ our Lord. Amen.

COLLECT

Grant us, Lord our God,

that we may honor you with all our mind,

and love everyone in truth of heart.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'”

APPLICATION

That God fulfilled his promise to send prophets to speak in his name and with his authority is evident from the pages of the Old Testament. Beginning with Joshua, the immediate successor of Moses, there was a continuous line of representatives of God, who directed the people, corrected their faults and filled them with hopes for a better future, right down to John the Baptist who was the precursor of the final and greatest of all prophets. God could, of course, have spoken directly to his people, but through Moses the people had asked him not to do so, because the hearing of his voice on Mount Sinai had struck terror into their hearts. In his mercy and love Yahweh granted their request.

Had the Chosen People listened to those prophets and obeyed their instructions, their history would have been different. They would have avoided much temporal suffering, and more important still, their large percentage who lost faith in God and his promises of future happiness would have remained faithful and would now be enjoying that promised happiness. But when they got full possession of the land God gave them, they began to get too interested in the economic and political affairs of their world. They forgot God who had been so generous toward them, and took credit to themselves for all that they were and had.

Who are we, living as we are in glass-houses, to throw stones? The prophets of the Old Testament were but fore-shadowings or types of the real prophet, God’s divine Son. He humbled himself to share in our humanity so that we could share in his divinity. Of this astounding fact every Christian is aware, and yet how many millions of “ex-Christians” are there in our world today? How many live their lives in total disregard of Christ’s teaching and complete oblivion of what he did and suffered for them, or, what is worse still for themselves, with complete disinterest in their own future state. Yet this is the sad fact of history. More than half the people of what were once the Christian nations are no longer interested in the Christian message today. Their days and their lives are so given to acquiring things and pleasures that every thought of a future life is blotted from their minds.

This neo-paganism which has been developing over the past centuries, has reached frightening proportions today. God has little, if any, place in the councils of nations. Man-made laws have replaced the ten commandments, and the result is, of course, a world in turmoil. There is not and there cannot be any brotherhood of man if we exclude the Fatherhood of God. There will never be “peace on earth among men” until all men make their peace with the God of heaven. False prophets and promoters of false gods, advertisers of pornography and permissiveness surround us on all sides today. There are those who are trying to prevent the pollution of land, water and atmosphere but too few, if any, who oppose the mental and moral pollution of people which is being propagated daily in our midst. All would like this world of ours to be a beautiful place to live in, only very few think to provide for a beautiful place to which they can go after they leave this world.

Please God we are among that few, but instead of clapping one another on the back for this, let us rather beat our breasts in repentance for our past faults and resolve to let the light of our Christian faith shine before our neighbors in future. Every good-living Christian is a prophet, a representative, of God among his neighbors. His example will speak and its message will be the word of God and it will produce fruit in God’s good time. We are our brothers’ keepers in that they are God’s adopted children too, and he wants them. He is looking to us to give them a helping hand. Would we refuse him, the all-loving Father who sent his Son to open heaven for us? Would we be so ungrateful as to refuse the little he asks of us in return?

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works.”

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

READING II

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1 Cor 7:32-35

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 922 From apostolic times Christian virgins1 and widows2, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”3

CCC 1579 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.”4 Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to “the affairs of the Lord,”5 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.6

CCC 1618 Christ is the center of all Christian life. The bond with him takes precedence over all other bonds, familial or social.7 From the very beginning of the Church there have been men and women who have renounced the great good of marriage to follow the Lamb wherever he goes, to be intent on the things of the Lord, to seek to please him, and to go out to meet the Bridegroom who is coming.8 Christ himself has invited certain persons to follow him in this way of life, of which he remains the model:

For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”9

1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.

2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.

3 Mt 19:12

4 Mt 19:12.

5 1 Cor 7:32.

6 Cf. PO 16.

7 Cf. Lk 14:26; Mk 10:28-31.

8 Cf. Rev 14:4; 1 Cor 7:32; Mt 2:56.

9 Mt 19:12.

APPLICATION

While it is true that St. Paul recommended a celibate life to those who were still single because of the general feeling at the time that the end of this world was at hand, his recommendation of celibacy and its advantages have been accepted through the ages down to our own day. The truth of his statement: “the unmarried man (or woman) is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, the married man (or woman) is anxious about worldly affairs (as well as about the affairs of God) and his interests are divided,” needs no demonstration, it is self-evident. For this reason we have had a line of men (and later of women also) through the nineteen centuries of the Church’s life who gladly deprived themselves of earthly comforts in order to devote their lives exclusively to God’s service. The voluntary celibates of the early Church were followed by the Fathers of the Desert, later by the Eastern and Western monks, then the religious orders and in more recent centuries by various congregations for men and women.

These celibates, of course, were always a small minority of the body of the faithful and it was always understood (as it was by St. Paul) that while their vocation was a call to the exclusive service of God it was by no means the only way of serving God and earning heaven. The married life is also a Christian vocation, a vocation indeed ordained by God for the vast majority. For the Christian who is sincere in his service of God, it entails many difficulties and trials from which his celibate life sets the religious free. On the other hand the life of a religious, of a celibate for God, has its own difficulties. But for both the married and the religious there is always available for the asking, the grace of God to help them over life’s hurdles. When God calls a man or woman for a task, he gives him or her the strength to carry it out, he fits the shoulder for the cross.

While the married life is indeed a vocation, a means of earning heaven, and an ordinance of God necessary for the procreation of citizens of heaven, the religious life, this voluntary abstention from marriage, by those so called, is a divine plan to help the married (as well as the religious themselves). Apart from the spiritual and material help which religious give to their married neighbors–teaching their children, caring for the disabled, running homes for the aged, helping families in need and the thousand other ways in which the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are joyously done in our midst each day–the special value of this total dedication of self to God, which the religious life demands and gives, is that it is a sign, a reminder, not only to all Christians but to all men, of the real purpose of life on earth.

God created us in order to raise us up after death to a new and endless life of happiness. Our few years on this earth are but the apprenticeship we must serve in order to earn our eternal standing or status as heirs of God in the eternal kingdom. But because man’s human nature can, and does so often, get so enmeshed in the things of earth we need reminders. We need signs and sign-posts to keep our true purpose in life before our minds. This is exactly what the few of our members who dedicate their whole life to God’s exclusive service, do for us. They remind us, urge us on by their noble example to serve God in our own limited, but sufficient way so that we too can reach the future life prepared for us.

Both the married life and the religious celibate life are vocations from God. While the religious help the married and their families on the road to heaven, the married can and must help the religious to continue their exclusive and devoted service to God, by providing them with the material necessities of life. This is part of their own devoted service of God, this is one of the ways in which they fulfill, their vocation. Heaven is the goal of both religious and married people. Where each of the parties devotedly and loyally fulfills the duties arising from each one’s vocation, that goal will be successfully reached by both.

GOSPEL

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Mk 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are, the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

http://usccb.org/bible/readings/012818.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 438 Jesus’ messianic consecration reveals his divine mission, “for the name ‘Christ’ implies ‘he who anointed’, ‘he who was anointed’ and ‘the very anointing with which he was anointed’. The one who anointed is the Father, the one who was anointed is the Son, and he was anointed with the Spirit who is the anointing.’”1 His eternal messianic consecration was revealed during the time of his earthly life at the moment of his baptism by John, when “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power”, “that he might be revealed to Israel”2 as its Messiah. His works and words will manifest him as “the Holy One of God”.3

CCC 1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing.4 In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.5

CCC 2173 The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day.6 He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”7 With compassion, Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing.8 The sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God.9 “The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”10

1 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3,18,3: PG 7/1, 934.

2 Acts 10:38; Jn 1:31.

3 Mk 1:24; Jn 6:69; Acts 3:14.

4 Cf. Mk 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17.

5 Cf. CIC, can. 1172.

6 Cf. Mk 1:21; Jn 9:16.

7 Mk 2:27.

8 Cf. Mk 3:4.

9 Cf. Mt 12:5; Jn 7:23.

10 Mk 2:28.

APPLICATION

St. Mark makes it clear that, from the very first day of Christ’s public ministry, his messianic power began to be manifested to those who saw and heard him. The Jews of Capernaum were “astonished” at his teaching and “amazed” at his power over the evil spirits. “What is this,” they asked one another, “a new teaching and the unclean spirits obey him!” But they were still a long way from recognizing him for what he was, the Messiah and Son of God. This is as might be expected, the astounding mystery of the incarnation was away beyond human expectation or human imagination. And it was our Lord’s own plan to reveal this mystery, slowly and gradually, so that when the chain of evidence had been completed by his resurrection, his followers could look back and see each link in that chain. Then they would be ready to accept without hesitation the mystery of the incarnation and realize the infinite love and power of God that brought it about. We look back today through, the eyes of the Evangelists, and, like them, know that Christ was God as well as man-two natures in one person. We should not therefore be “amazed” at the teaching of Jesus or at his power over the unclean spirits. What should amaze us really is the love that God showed mankind in becoming one of our race.

We are creatures with nothing of our own to boast of. We were created by God, and every talent or power we possess was given us by God. God’s benevolence could have stopped them and we would have no right to complain. But when we recall the special gifts he gave man, which raise him above all other created things, we see that he could not, because of his own infinitely benevolent nature, leave us to an earthly fate. What thinking man could be content with a short span of life on earth? What real purpose in life could an intelligent being have who knew that nothing awaited him but eternal oblivion in the, grave? What fulfillment would man’s intellectual faculties find in a few years of what is for the majority of people perpetual struggle for earthly survival? No, God created us to elevate us, after our earthly sojourn, to an eternal existence where all our desires and potentialities would have their true fulfillment. Hence the incarnation, hence the life, death and resurrection of Christ, who was God’s Son, as the central turning point of man’s history.

Today, while amazed at God’s love for us, let us also be justly amazed at the shabby and grudging return we make for love. Many amongst us even deny that act of God’s infinite love, not from convincing historical and logical proofs, but in order to justify their own unwillingness to cooperate with the divine plan for their eternal future. This is not to say that their future, after death, does not concern them; it is a thought which time and again intrudes on all men, but they have allowed the affairs of this world which should be stepping stones to their future life, to become instead mill-stones which crush their spirits and their own true self-interests.

While we sincerely hope that we are not in that class, we can still find many facets in our daily Christian lives which can and should make us amazed at our lack of gratitude to God and to his incarnate Son. Leaving out serious sin which turns us away from God if not against him, how warm is our charity, our love of God and neighbor? How much of our time do we give to the things of God and how much to the things of Caesar? How often does our daily struggle for earthly existence and the grumbles and grouses which it causes, blot out from our view the eternal purpose God had in giving us this earthly existence. How often during the past year have we said from our heart: “Thank you, God, for putting me in this world, and thank you a thousand times more, for giving me the opportunity and the means of reaching the next world where I shall live happily for evermore in your presence”? If the true answer for many of us is “not once,” then begin today. Let us say it now with all sincerity, and say it often in the years that are left to us.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

Returning to the Sabbath Source

In the creation account the Sabbath is depicted as the day when the human being, in the freedom of worship, participates in God’s freedom, in God’s rest, and thus in God’s peace. To celebrate the sabbath means to celebrate the covenant. It means to return to the source and to sweep away all the defilement that our work has brought with it. It also means going forth into a new world in which there will no longer be slaves and masters but only free children of God – into a world in which humans and animals and the earth itself will share together as kin in God’s peace and freedom… People had rejected God’s rest, its leisure, its worship, its peace, and its freedom, and so they fell into the slavery of activity. They brought the earth into the slavery of their activity and thereby enslaved themselves. Therefore God had to give them the Sabbath that they denied themselves. In their “no” to the God-given rhythm of freedom and leisure they departed from their likeness to God and so did damage to the earth. Therefore they had to be snatched from their obstinate attachment to their own work. God had to begin afresh to make them his very own, and he had to free them from the domination of activity. Operi Dei nibil praeponatur: The worship of God, his freedom, and his rest come first. Thus and only thus can the human being truly live.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Suscipe

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,

my memory, my understanding,

and my entire will,

All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.

To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.

Give me only your love and your grace,

that is enough for me.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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