4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021-B

My brothers and sisters in the Lord!

Today’s Gospel ends with the words: “And his Reputation rapidly spreads everywhere”, but by no means is it the end of the story.  Jesus’ reputation has continued to spread for the past two thousand years across all the continents.  There are countless souls whose lives he has touched and in some cases, transformed totally; millions upon millions of ordinary people, like ourselves, who have, to a greater or lesser extent have come to know and love him. 

In 1991, a British boxer by the name of Michael Watson was left permanently paralyzed after one of his matches. The brain surgeon who conducted the initial operation on Michael thought that he would die; later however, the doctors said he would never walk again.  But twelve years later he managed to complete the London Marathon; he walked at a rate of two hours each morning and two hours each afternoon, finally completing the whole course in six days.  He was accompanied on the last leg of his marathon by the man who had brought disaster into his life; they had become good friends.  Michael Watson had wondered if it had been a disaster after all. He finally said: “getting angry” won’t change the past. Before the accident I wasn’t a Christian, but now Jesus is my inspiration. And how can you fail to be moved by the words of Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them?”

The Jewish people had a deep respect and admiration for Moses; they looked upon him as the greatest of their prophets, the greatest of God’s spokesman, but as we heard in todays’ first reading, Moses promised: “Your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves.” That was the promise and the Gospel in a dramatic fashion shows its fulfillment. 

The local synagogue invited Jesus to speak on the Sabbath day.  The people are deeply impressed. In their astonishment, they ask each other what it can all mean.  Jesus is a prophet like no other; his teaching is teaching with a difference, because he is teaching with authority.  Other religious leaders simply pass on what they have learned from others, but Jesus’ teaching seems to well up from within himself. Jesus also displays this authority not only from his words but also by his actions, he chases away unclean  spirits as well as the devil. It’s also been said in Mark’s Gospel that Jesus does not merely appear on the scene, rather he explodes onto it. His appearance is dramatic. If we were to think about it, who can ignore someone like this? And yes, the question is asked “Who is he?” and where does his power come from?

When you look at Mark’s Gospel it isn’t only a drama, but it is a challenge. A challenge for us to reflect on what do we make of Jesus?  And who is he for me in my life? Who is he, not just in theory but in practice, not just on Sundays but in the living of our daily life? We also ask: what about the evil spirits? Did Jesus come to conquer them? In our modern, scientific world, we might perhaps smile a little at the very mention of these things.    But are there not evil forces in each of us;  forces that threaten our well-being and that of others, those dark forces like pride, selfishness, lust, envy and bitterness that can so easily come bubbling up to the surface? And might these be described as evil spirits?  And then on the world stage as well, if we think of wars, crimes ethnic cleansing , terrorism, the use of torture , the global warming caused by human misuse of the world’s resources, again we might ask what drives human beings to do these things. 

If today’s Gospel highlights the authority of Christ’s teaching, it is perhaps not surprising that the responsorial psalm should urge us to listen to “listen to his voice! And harden not your hearts.”  And if we listen, what shall we hear?  We will hear many things and it all comes down to this: your God loves you, you are God’s child and God has prepared a place for you in his kingdom.  Do not be afraid, God can conquer every evil that threatens your happiness.  The message is to live for God and for your brothers and sisters.  My brothers and sisters, when the people heard Jesus preach, they said: “here is a teaching that is new.”  And when we truly listen to him , not only with our ears but also with our hearts , then his teaching is always new, always carrying an appeal  and a freshness, as though we are hearing it for the first time. We must remember that it is always Gospel, always good news. 

Today we begin the celebration of Catholic Schools Week. We are truly blessed to have a parish school with a great teaching staff under the direction of Ms. Jaclyn Pilat.  The theme this year is Faith, Excellence and Service. These words truly encompass the core values that can be found not only at our own Good Shepherd Academy, but in Catholic Schools all over the country.  This year, during the Pandemic of COVID-19, teachers, students and parents have been challenged in so many ways. The demands educators have to teach in person and virtually is difficult and sometimes we lose faith in these challenges, but the power of prayer is there to strengthen our faith in order to face the challenges head on.  

Not only are we teaching students to become future servant leaders, faith filled disciples and enriched citizens  in our communities , our staff as educators are growing and learning with them.  In Catholic Schools, we are all learners, servants and leaders.  These shared qualities are what make Catholic Schools work as well as succeed.  I ask you to please pray for Ms. Pilat, our teachers, staff, students and parents as we journey together in teaching and learning most especially during this challenging year; and most especially for the honor and glory of God.  We are grateful to our parents for entrusting their children to the care of our school. Our 10AM Mass this Sunday, January 31st, virtual; please check gsanutley.org for the activities during Catholic Schools Week.  

Peace;

Fr. Joe