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Friday, 26 January 2018

4th Sunday of Year B 2018

 4th. Sunday Year (B)       
(Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1st. Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28)

Moses had found the Israelites very hard to teach and very reluctant to obey the words given him by the Lord for their observance; so perhaps there was some overtone of irony in his voice when he said to them:

A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen.

We, however, are not like those Israelites of old and so, let us recall and try to profitably consider what is of supreme importance from our first reading today:

Moses spoke to the people saying: ‘The LORD said to me, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen, and will put My words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him”’.

We then hear why it will be so very important for them to listen to the promised prophet better than they had listened to Moses himself: 
If any man will not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will make him answer for it.

After Moses, the Lord did indeed raise up a series of prophets: prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Micah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others, whose messages live on in the Bible, and yet others whose names alone are remembered; but even though they spoke faithfully in the name of the God of Israel, we find throughout the Bible that their message was largely ignored:

I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but you have not inclined your ear, nor obeyed Me. (Jeremiah 35:15-16)

Or, as Isaiah put it more dramatically (42:18-20):

Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see.  You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; your ears are open, but none hears.

A prophet was called and sent to speak a message given him by God.  However, should a prophet betray his calling by substituting his own words for the word of God – which was always a possibility because of human sinfulness and the importance and attention accorded to a recognized prophet – God had most solemnly warned:

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.

When, therefore, such a prophet did presume to speak falsely in the Lord’s name, he had to die, as happened in Jeremiah’s time (Jeremiah 28:15-17):

The prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, ‘Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie.  Therefore, thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.”’  So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

It happened also in the time of Ezekiel (13:6-9):

‘You say, “The LORD says”, but I have not spoken.  Therefore, because you have spoken nonsense and envisioned lies, therefore I am indeed against you,’ says the Lord God.  ‘My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord God.’ 

And so, though the Lord took great care to have His word faithfully proclaimed and publicly appreciated in Israel, nevertheless, His true prophets -- though proclaiming His authentic message -- were frequently ignored by the people, opposed and even physically oppressed by their leaders who inclined only to listen to what they wanted to hear, rather than to the word the Lord their God chose to send them:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! (Matthew 23:37)

Nevertheless, despite such disregard, resistance, and opposition over many ages, Moses’ promise of a prophet to come was not forgotten by pious Israelites, neither was their conviction that his message would be of decisive importance for the fulfilment of Israel’s destiny; for that, they believed, was the very reason why the Lord had most explicitly said to Moses:

If any man will not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will make him answer for it.

Now you can appreciate the significance of that question a delegation of Jews put to John the Baptist: “Are you the Prophet?”   Moses had only spoken directly of a prophet, but Israel’s faithful, guided in their prayer and through their sufferings over many centuries by the God of Israel, were, by the time of Jesus, expecting and invoking one who will be the prophet of God, for them and for Israel herself as God’s Chosen People:

To Him you shall listen.
Recall also in this connection the voice of the Father speaking from heaven to Peter, James and John on the Mount of Jesus’ transfiguration:

This is My beloved Son.  Listen to Him!  (Mark 9:7)

Now, believers of today know the reason why the Prophet speaks infallibly in God’s name: it is because the Prophet is the very Word of God Himself made flesh:

Jesus answered, "My doctrine is not Mine but His Who sent Me.  I and My Father are One."  (John 7:16, 10:30)

And so, People of God, you are in a position to understand that when Jesus spoke, He did indeed speak with authority, a God-given authority; and it is a testimony to the renewed sincerity of religious life in Israel in the times of the Messiah, that those in the synagogue listening to Jesus’ words, recognized and appreciated what they had not encountered before:

The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (Mark 1:22)

Now, that same Jesus speaks to us today, indeed, He is speaking now, in your midst, as I proclaim His word in His name; and we must always bear in mind that He was, and still is, the Saviour of those, and only those, who want to be saved: many to whom He spoke and who heard His teaching would not accept such teaching with authority and, consequently, did not acknowledge His Person; those He left them to themselves, He did not seek to force Himself upon them.

And now, each of us here today must be prepared to answer a question arising from the secret depths of our Catholic mind and heart: “Do I want Jesus to be my Lord and Saviour, or do I want to be left in the indolence of my own comfort and indifference; do I want to be rescued from my sinfulness or not?  What, indeed, do I want before God?

Dear People of God, if you really want Jesus to be your Saviour, a Rock of strength and security for you; a Light to reveal to you the authentic beauty of life, and to open up for you the joy of walking with Him by His  Spirit along the path He has traced for you; if you want Him to be your earthly fulfilment and promise of eternal blessedness, your earthly wisdom and heavenly glory; in other words, if you want to become -- in Him -- a true child of God and to share in His eternal blessedness in the heavenly Kingdom of His and our Father, then you must give Him authority in your life now, here on earth.  Jesus is no tyrant, He will not arrogate such authority to Himself; but if you humbly and faithfully give it to Him He will make use of it for your great, great blessing.

Listen now to Our Lord Himself again (John 7:16-17):

My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

“If anyone wants to do God’s will, he shall know, he will realize …”   God has done His work by giving us His Son Who died and rose again for us, and His Spirit to guide and form us as His children in His beloved Son; but we have to choose: “If anyone wants”, Jesus said, “to do God’s will, he will know the truth of My teaching.”  
Jesus never fails His People; the fact, however, is that not all those who call themselves Christians and Catholics actually want and do choose Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour: too many give Him the titles of Lord and Saviour indeed, but not the authority of Lord and Master in their lives.  People of God, even the unbelieving Jews acknowledged Jesus as a man of authority; therefore, if He is not authoritative in your life through His divine teaching in the Scriptures, through His Church’s faithful witness in her doctrine and the holiness of her worship and her sacraments, then, in fact, you are very, very far from Him and He, most certainly, is not in your life.

Authority is not an objectionable, domineering sort of word, that has to be submerged and forgotten in a flood of emotional words and deeds too frequently professed and performed out of hidden self-love and for human approval. True love cannot be exercised without right authority … that is why a world of authority without caring, or a world of caring without authority are both loveless worlds, cold or unstable, where selfishness reigns and children are disadvantaged.   God the Father sent His Son among us; His Son obediently came into our world at the behest of, and out of supreme love for, His Father.  See, People of God, what Jesus included in the full meaning of those words of His, The Father and I are One:  authority and love, command and obedience, are expressions and manifestations of the absolute one-ness of divinity and dignity, love and understanding, uniting the Father and His Son for our salvation.

Likewise, the authority that God wills in and for His Church is wholly so, that the love with which the Father has loved us in Jesus can -- by His most Holy Spirit -- bring forth the truly beautiful flower of Catholic peace and Christian joy in our lives here on earth, before ripening into the sublime and heavenly fruit which will be our eternal salvation.  Therefore, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, let Jesus’ true love, His authoritative love, touch and transform your devout Catholic and truly Christian lives.