Scripture Readings: Book of Deuteronomy 18:15-20; First Corinthians 7:32-35; Gospel According to Mark 1:21-28
The three Scripture readings assigned for this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time speak about being attentive and listening to the prophet whom God will send (the first reading from Deuteronomy), of being free from worry (second reading from First Corinthians), and finally, in the Gospel, the importance of the “completely new teaching in the spirit of authority,” which Jesus heralds.
The reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy is addressed to God’s people by Moses, considered to be the greatest of the prophets. Moses’ words carry an important message for those who belong to God, that God will not abandon his people, but will continue to raise up prophets after Moses, who acts on God’s behalf, as did Moses, to make God’s ways and commands known to the nations. Eventually such a prophet was to be understood and being embodied in the promised Messiah, whom we now recognize as embodied in Jesus Christ, true God and true man, who as the Gospel today expresses it, teaches and acts “in a spirit of authority,” derived from God.
The reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians today is not so much about which is better, married life or the single life, as it is about that fact that every person has his or her own special gift from God. Paul desires, in the spirit of the Gospel he is preaching, that no one be bogged down with anxiety, or feeling that a noose has been thrown around their neck. Rather, everyone should consecrate him or herself to the Lord, according to one’s call. Saint Paul is not advocating pushing anyone into an ideal that is beyond the capacity of the believer.
Turning to the Gospel for this Sunday, we find Jesus teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum. The synagogue there, by the Sea of Galilee, is neither grand nor outstanding, and in its present state stands partly in ruins, with no roof on it. This fact, of being roofless, strikes me as underlining the fact that the message of the saving deeds of the Lord cannot in any way be bound or confined, but must extend to all the ends of the earth. In other words, there is no roof on Jesus’ message.
Our work is cut out for us as followers of Christ, challenging us to proclaim the Gospel by our lives. We should never give up in our search for God each day of our life, trusting in the loving help of the One who created us and who has sustained us to the present. At the same time, we need also to keep in mind that at some point we will all be exchanging time for eternity, one definition of the reality of death. May we be prepared to meet the Lord now and at the moment of the completion of our earthly pilgrimage.
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB