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Friday, 2 February 2018

5th Sunday of Year (B) 2018

                                5th Sunday Year (B)                  (Job 7:1-4, 6-7; 1st. Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39)

Simon and his companions searched for Jesus and when they found Him, they said to Him:

“Everyone is looking for you.”  He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.”

We can appreciate from that passage of the Gospel that Jesus considered His preaching to be of supreme importance; and that most probably led that great apostle of Jesus, St. Paul, to make this otherwise surprising declaration in his first letter to the Corinthians:

          Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. (1:17)

Throughout His public ministry Jesus’ preaching was a cause of astonishment to those who heard Him.  They reacted in this way both because of the content of His preaching -- many, for example, would say after hearing Him:

          Where did this man get this wisdom? (Matthew 13:54),

and also, because of the manner in which He spoke, as you heard in last week’s Gospel passage:

The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Now, this was not just the reaction of simple people perhaps too prone to religious excitement, it was also the response of rough soldiers notoriously untouched by any such religious sensitivities, as St. John tells us in his Gospel (7:46):

          The officers answered, "Never has a man spoken the way this Man speaks.”

Indeed, St. Mark tells us (11:18), that the religious authorities themselves -- those highly intelligent and determinedly dangerous enemies of Jesus -- had a like appreciation of His preaching and Person:

The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching.
When the scribes -- learned in the Law and in the Jewish oral tradition -- addressed the people, they frequently did little more than string together a series of quotes, centring on some brief passage of the Torah -- taking them from earlier authorities or currently well-known and influential teachers -- without themselves making any personal statements or commitment.

With Jesus, however, it was quite different: He might, indeed, quote on occasion, but only from the Scriptures;  other than that, He might proffer His own observations on everyday events and occurrences of human life, or make Personal references to the wonder and beauty of the natural world around, before finally -- by the fullness of the Spirit that was in Him -- delivering a teaching uniquely based on His own Personal authority, that was both sublimely expressive of God’s presence and purpose in the Scriptures, and yet most harmoniously in tune with nature, and with the experiences, expectations,  and aspirations of ordinary men and women.

His was, indeed, an absolutely unique authority on, and interpreter of, divine realities, as both St. John (3:11-13) and St. Matthew (11:27) tell us:

Truly, truly, I say to you, We speak of what We know and testify of what We have seen, and you do not accept Our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He Who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 

Now, St. Paul, by virtue of his God-given vocation as Doctor of the Nations, recognized and appreciated the absolute necessity of this aspect of Jesus’ teaching, as we can tell from the advice he gave to Titus, an early convert of his whom he later established as head of the church in Crete:

Say these things.  Exhort and correct with all authority. Let no one look down on you. (Titus 2:15)

Today, the proclamation of the Gospel, by public preaching and personal witness, is absolutely essential for Mother Church, and it must be authoritative.  And for us, the authority so desirable in Mother Church’s preaching and her witness of authentic Catholic and Christian living can only come from faith: a faith gratefully received, wholeheartedly believed, and so deeply loved and revered that it has to be handed on to subsequent generations in the fulness of its wondrous beauty and divine truth.

Such authority in our Catholic proclamation and Christian living cannot come from some stirred-up, emotionally contrived, assurance of personal inspiration which ultimately only seeks to promote self; it must come from a total commitment to what transcends our own self and what, nevertheless, is essentially part of, and indeed the only key to, our deepest self.  This total commitment to the God proclaimed by our faith can only come when we realize that our duty as Catholics and Christians is to know God:

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

This knowledge is not just the awareness of some facts about God, of the Scriptures, or about the Church; it must be a deeply personal appreciation of God Himself, as manifested to us in the Person of Jesus Christ, and witnessed by Jesus’ revelation of the Father and His Gift of the Holy Spirit in Mother Church.  This is a knowledge that can only be received by those who consistently and perseveringly seek to follow their Lord’s own example of commitment and love in His constant communing with His Father in prayer:

Rising very early before dawn, He left and went off to a deserted place, where He prayed.
It is the lack of such loving knowledge and appreciation of, communion with and whole-hearted response to, the Personal God Who deigns to dwell within His faithful servants, that bedevils the proclamation and the witness of Catholics and Christians today.  In the book of Hosea (4:6; 6:6) we are told:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest.

I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

The world’s ‘religion’ today is above all a proclamation of self-sufficiency and mutual self- approbation: ‘we can do holy things of ourselves without any God’.  Because God is rejected as not-necessary, there is no authority able to give peace, strength, and coherence to our experience of life: the laws that would govern the nations all too often give expression to the lies and deceits of corrosive self-interest; the law that would govern our own society is, at the best, only a series ‘ad hoc’ solutions quite unable to cure the root ills of an irreligious, no longer God-fearing, nation; and for an ever growing number of individuals there is no rudder to guide and govern their personal lives: only the  compulsive pressures of profit, the personal passions of pleasure, and social aspirations for power and popularity.  This inevitably leads to an experience, though not to an appreciation, of those words of Job:

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to an end without hope.

However, let us, People of God, take to heart the words of the prophets Hosea and Isaiah:

He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him; so, let us know, let us press on to know, the LORD. (Hosea 6:2-3)

They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)

And above all, of course, we should learn from Our Blessed Lord Himself Who shows with supreme clarity the vital importance of holy knowledge, the source of our redemption, salvation, and glory:

Just as the Father knows Me, I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (John 10:15)

The Son of God knew His Father’s great goodness, and His love for what He had originally formed in Their own likeness, and, out of such knowledge of and love for His Father, the Son had willed to become Jesus our Saviour.

You (Samaritans) worship what you do not know; we (Jews) worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.   (John 4:22)

Salvation is from the Jews Jesus proudly says, because they know what they worship.

Now this is eternal life, that they should know You the only true God, and the One Whom You sent, Jesus Christ.  (John 17:3)

But I do know Him (God) and I keep His word. (John 8:55)

True knowledge of God distinguished Jesus from all those Jews of the ‘establishment’ so opposed to Him, and that true knowledge meant that He ‘kept God’s word’ in all its authentic fulness.

Dear People of God, let us pray that our Blessed Lord and Saviour may give authentic authority – the authority of holy knowledge of God and His will -- to both the preaching and the witness of Mother Church and us, her children, in our troubled world of today.