4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9 (8)
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
January 31, 2021
What is Jesus remembered for?
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
John 3:16 is one of the most quoted versus in the Bible. It tells us what Jesus came for, to die for us so that we might have eternal life.
Is that all that Jesus is remembered for?
If one prods a little further, people may also likely remember the miracles Jesus did. He healed many people of illnesses. He drove out many demons. This is certainly good news!
It is still not all Jesus did. His mission culminates in his Crucifixion and Resurrection but what was the first thing Jesus did in his public ministry?
Jesus began his public ministry following his Baptism and the temptation by the devil by calling disciples and teaching. We heard last week how He called Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John to be his disciples. Today’s gospel passage immediately follows that.
As a good Jew, “on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue.” It is there that He began to teach. This is the one part of Jesus’ mission that I haven’t mentioned yet. Given the moral state of our society, I think his teaching may be the least remembered part of his ministry.
It is, however, a very important part of his ministry for Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17).
His teaching did not go unnoticed that day. In fact, “The people were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”
The scribes were part of the official religious authority in those days. They were the ones highly educated in the Law. Yet, the people did not perceive the teaching of the scribes to be with “authority.”
Why? In part because they did not always practice what they preached. One might also wonder if they spoke like they believed what they were saying.
What do you look for in a person to believe they speak with authority?
Unfortunately, I think the first quality that many people look for today is that the one speaking agrees with what one already thinks. That can be affirming but it does not guarantee authority.
There is a type of authority that comes with position. In our Catholic Church, by their ordination, it is the bishops, priests, and deacons who have the “authority” to preach. There’s also the fact that we earn master’s degrees in seminary to show our educational creditability.
Yet, we may still know preachers who don’t seem to speak with authority. Please pray for all who preach to listen to the Holy Spirit to know and offer the message God wants the people to hear.
Returning to the idea that people look for speakers who agree with them, let’s take a look at our psalm response, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Of course, the voice this verse is talking about is God’s voice. Who would ever want to harden their hearts to God’s voice?
I think some people harden their hearts because they know they are not living as they should. That means if they truly listen to God with open hearts, they will have to change their ways. They don’t want to, so they don’t listen well.
Do you listen? Do you listen well?
Many of the prophets were treated in the same way. Jeremiah was persecuted as a prophet for preaching an unpopular message. While his message was unpopular, the people who persecuted him did not try to prove him wrong. Perhaps they knew he was right. They just wanted to get rid of him.
Being a prophet is not easy. In the time of Moses, the people did not listen directly to God, “Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die” because they did not feel worthy to speak to God directly. So, they asked for intermediaries. The prophets are the intermediaries.
We may not feel worthy to hear God’s voice. We might not feel worthy to receive the Eucharist. On our own, we are not. Jesus died to make us worthy.
We need to listen to God but it is hard in a world where we hear many different voices telling us what is right and wrong. Some of those voices tell us we are free to choose how to live however we want as long as we don’t hurt anyone. (see my recent article, “Many Voices: Who Should We Listen To?”)
We have free will. However, making decisions only for ourselves is not what we are given freedom for. We use our freedom best when we choose to live focused on the “the things of the Lord” instead of the “things of the world.”
In today’s gospel, it is the “unclean spirit” who recognizes who Jesus truly is, “the Holy One of God.” It is the “unclean spirit” who obeys Jesus.
Do we make God the authority in our lives? Do we surrender ourselves to the Lord?
“Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the LORD who made us.”
In our opening prayer today we pray that we may honor God “with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.” May this always be our goal.