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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Our Lord walked a different path than all other religious leaders of His time. His teachings and actions amazed all who encountered Him, as He lived a life that was unlike anything that they had seen before. He lived a life that was contrary to the expectations of the world, and He calls us to do the same.

For the religious teachers in Jesus' time, much of their teaching came from the traditions that had been handed down from generation to generation. Instead of presenting his understanding of what a particular passage in the Scriptures means, a religious teacher would invoke those teachers who had taught before, much like we might quote the Saints or Church Fathers. These teachers would not teach of their own authority, as they felt that they had none other than to pass on the teachings that were entrusted to them.

When Our Lord would stand up in the synagogues to teach, he wouldn't begin by quoting other rabbis, but would invoke his own authority to explain the Scriptures. This would have caused a great shock to all those who were listening, and He did create no small amount of controversy from His teachings. His teachings appeared to be so completely different, even contradictory, to the teachings of those who came before, and this fed the controversy even more.

For many in Judaism, the last teacher who was able to teach with his own authority was Moses, and even that came through the authority of God the Father. As we heard in the first reading, Moses was given the promise that there would be a prophet who would like him, and would have the words of God in his mouth. While it was probably not the way Moses expected, Jesus was the fulfillment of this promise. Because Jesus was able to teach with the Word of God instead of the words of men, He was able to teach on his own authority. This was completely radical to the people of Jesus' time, causing great amazement and controversy.

The controversy didn't end with Jesus' teachings, however. Jesus also had the power to rebuke demons, forcing them to be silent and even leave the person they had possessed. Again, this would have been completely different from the authority provided to any of the other religious teachers of His time. It caused great amazement to those who followed Him, and enraged those who were opposed to Him.

By looking at the radicality of Jesus' teachings and actions, we see that the unclean spirit in today's Gospel was right about two things. First, it was right that Jesus is the Holy One of God, code language for the Messiah and Son of God. Second, it was right that Jesus came to destroy them and their effects on this world. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, Satan and his demons have had run of the world, but now Our Lord has come to cut off their free reign. Instead of allowing us to wander blindly through this world of sin, Jesus has shown us a new path out of sin and into the joy of eternal life. In short, all the teachings and actions of Christ, so different from what had come before, served to show us a different path through the world: the Gospel.

Although Our Lord has come to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, it's still very easy for us to fall of the path that He has shown us. This is why St. Paul says that he “should like [us] to be free of anxieties.” When we are anxious for the things of the world, we lose our focus on the Gospel and instead concentrate on those things that make us anxious. At that point, it becomes easy to slide off the path of the Gospel and instead return to the ways of the world. St. Paul tells us that we need to have “adherence to the Lord without distraction,” and it becomes very difficult to worry about worldly affairs and remain undistractedly focused on Our Lord. This doesn't mean that we totally remove ourselves from the world, but must not allow the things of the world to make us anxious.

Jesus has shown us another way of living our lives. May be willing to follow that path without anxiety for the world.


RomanCatholic Deacon said...

Nice homily and to the point! St. Paul's insight regarding married men and women are amazing. He hits the nail on the head. As a married deacon, I always struggled with whom to serve first, the Church or wife and family. Sometimes the church does not understand our anxieties about serving two masters.
Have a blessed day.
Deacon John Giglio

memoriadei said...

Great homily, Father. I think the the balance of St. Benedict is a good example of work and prayer in rhythm so that we are less likely tocompletely fall into the fears of this world, the anxieties. For the lay faithful, it's an ongoing struggle to keep that rhythm as we are on the front lines to do things..such as fight for Life and to keep our country from becoming something we don't recognize anymore. Only by keeping as close to that rhythm of ora et labora can we come close to keeping sane in this crazy world. Thanks for posting your homilies and all that you do, Father, for God and Church.

SmallSheep said...

Amen, Father! Once again, your homily is just what I needed to hear.