Tag Archives: 4 Sunday in Ordinary time

28 January 2018: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
  Dt 18:15-20   Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9   1 Cor 7:32-35   Mk 1:21-28

Teaching and acting with authority and power

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary readings invite us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Today’s readings ask the believing community and RCIA participants to think about authority and power.

In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses promises the Israelites that God will continue to provide them with prophets and prophetic leaders. God fulfills this promise through a prophetic “office:” first, through judges, and later, through formal prophets, invested with God’s authority to speak for God. In later biblical periods, Jews understood this promise in a messianic sense: God would send one final prophet (the “eschatological prophet”) who would inaugurate the end times. Jesus stands in Israel’s prophetic tradition, as well as fulfilling the role of the eschatological prophet, who both teaches and redeems.

In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul answers the community’s questions and corrects their understandings about marriage. Because Paul believes that Christ’s return is imminent, he counsels the Corinthians not to focus on worldly concerns (like marriage). Although he recommends a celibate life, Paul doesn’t deny marriage to those who want to be married. Paul’s point is simply: those without worldly attachments and responsibilities are better able to pursue the Lord’s work (building up and serving the believing community).

In the gospel, Mark describes Jesus’ first day of ministry: he teaches in the synagogue with authority and he exorcises the unclean spirit with power. The Greek word ἐξουσία (ehks-oo-SEE-ah) means both “authority” and “power.” Jesus’ authority/power is a sign that God’s kingdom is present:

  • In authoritative words. The synagogue attendees recognize that Jesus “teaches with authority (ἐξουσία),” unlike the scribes. Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s kingdom (Mk 1:15), while the scribes focused on traditional doctrine. Jesus’ words cause “amazement” or “astonishment.” Jesus’ teaching about the good news of salvation demonstrates his authority to save God’s people.
  • In powerful actions. Jesus expels a demon with a single command. The demon knows that Jesus has come to destroy evil’s reign on earth. The bystanders recognize Jesus’ power (ἐξουσία), saying “even the unclean spirits obey him.” Jesus’ action causes “amazement” or “astonishment.” Jesus’ handling of the unclean spirit demonstrates his power over evil.

This week’s readings ask us to examine authority and power. As the first reading tells us, God is authority’s source. In the gospel, we see Jesus standing in the prophetic tradition, teaching and healing. Because Jesus is God, his authority and power bring salvation and clear the way for God’s kingdom. Whose authority and power do we recognize? Are they using their authority and power to save and heal, or do they use it to exclude and harm? Do their words and actions amaze and astonish us?

—Terence Sherlock


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29 January 2017: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Zep 2:3; 3:12-13 Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10 1 Cor 1:26-31 Mt 5:1-12a

Blessed are you?

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Beginning this week and for the next four weeks, the gospel follows Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. This week’s readings focus on the beatitudes.

In the first reading, the prophet Zephaniah calls the Judeans to conversion to avoid the coming judgement–“the day of the Lord.” He addresses the people as anawim (AHN-ah-vim)–a Hebrew word meaning “the poor”–who depend completely on God for their lives. The Lectionary editors pair Zephaniah’s message to the anawim with Jesus’ message to the poor in spirit to contrast the coming “day of the Lord” with the coming “kingdom of God.”

The second reading continues Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. Last week, Paul admonished the Corinthians for their disunity and quarrels. This week, Paul addresses the root cause of their exclusivity: they think too highly of themselves. Paul reminds the Corinthians that, by human standards, other people would judge them as not too smart, powerful, or classy. God chooses (calls) slow, powerless, nobodies that everyone despises to shame the world’s wise, powerful, top-class people. Paul suggests they confine their boasting to “boasting in the Lord”–recognizing that all humans live only because of God’s grace and goodness.

Matthew’s gospel begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount discourse. Today Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowds his new law: the beatitudes.

  • What is a beatitude? Beatitudes are a common literary form in Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek, and other ancient writings. The Greek word μακάριος (mah-KAH-ree-ohs) means “blessed,” “happy,” or “fortunate,” and addresses someone who is to be praised or congratulated for being in a privileged position. In Jewish tradition, a beatitude commended someone who choose a particular path in life, or promised future consolation to someone currently experiencing affliction.
  • What do the beatitudes mean? Jesus addresses his beatitudes to his disciples. He calls disciples to serve and to model God’s kingdom in this world. Worldly kingdoms (social, business, political) are in conflict with one another and with God’s kingdom. Jesus tells his disciples to give up attachments to worldly kingdoms and to align themselves with God’s kingdom. They must take on actions and attitudes–being poor in spirit, mourning evil, practicing humility, hungering after justice, showing mercy, single-mindedly seeking God, making peace, enduring persecution–that Jesus himself lives.

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to consider how our lives reflect God’s kingdom. Like the Judeans, we need Zephaniah’s message of continuing conversion. Like the Corinthians, we need Paul’s reminder that God is in charge, not us. As disciples, we need to walk Jesus’ path to bring the kingdom. Can we let go of our addictions to earthly wisdom, power, and status? Can we put down some of the worldly things we think we need–pride, revenge, fear–to pick up some of Jesus’ own attitudes and actions?

—Terence Sherlock

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31 January 2016: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Jer 1:4-5, 17-19 Ps 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15-17 1 Cor 12:31-13:13 Lk 4:21-30


Jesus’ way: unconditional love

During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. Over the next few Sundays, we follow Jesus as he begins his ministry and calls his disciples. This week’s readings connect Jeremiah’s prophetic call and mission with Jesus’ mission as prophet and messiah.

In the first reading God calls Jeremiah to be a prophet not only to Judah (the Hebrew people), but to “all nations.” Through Jeremiah, God offers salvation to all. God warns Jeremiah that those who hear his prophecy will oppose and reject him. God promises to be with Jeremiah always. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to match today’s gospel. These two aspects of Jeremiah’s call–universality of salvation and opposition to his message–appear in Jesus’ words to the Nazareth synagogue.

In the second reading Paul writes to the Corinth ekklesia because its membership is divided over the Spirit’s gifts. Paul tells the Corinthians to continue to strive for spiritual gifts, but the best gift is love. Without love, the spiritual gifts are worthless. Paul uses the Greek word ἀγάπη (ah-GAH-pay), which has the idea of “a warm regard for and interest in another without thinking of one’s self.” ἀγάπη is not sentimental, passive, greeting-card “love,” but robust, active, fully-present, and unselfish concern for another. Paul warns the Corinthians, infatuated with tongues and prophecy, that the spiritual gifts have limits and will end. Only faith, hope, and ἀγάπη persist.

Today’s gospel continues from last week’s reading: Jesus is in his hometown synagogue. Jesus proclaims his mission and his friends and neighbors reject him:

  • Jesus’ mission: Jesus reads from Isaiah’s scroll that foretell him: the Spirit anoints him to preach, to heal, and to free the oppressed. By choosing this Isaiah passage and then commenting on it (“fulfilled in your ears”), Jesus states he is the messiah. Jesus then aligns himself with the prophet Elijah (“sent to the widow Zarephath”) and with the prophet Elisha (“cleansed Naaman the Syrian”). Jesus states he is a prophet, sent to save not just to the Jewish people but all people.
  • Nazareth’s rejection: The Nazareth community was insulted because Jesus refused to recognize his place (“Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”) and wouldn’t perform healings (“Do what you did in Capernaum!”). The Nazareth community knew Jesus well–they watched him grow up, after all–and therefore questioned his authority or power. How could this local boy be a prophet or the messiah?

Jesus’ miraculous escape (“he passed through their midst”) fulfills God’s promise to Jeremiah in the first reading: “I am with you to deliver you.”

Today’s readings reveal an uncomfortable reality: walking in Jesus’ way often means rejection. Jesus’ mission–to preach, to heal, and to free the oppressed–is our mission, too. Jesus’ “still more excellent way” of ἀγάπη–unconditional love–is the believing community’s roadmap to the kingdom and to the cross. We ask ourselves: Am I patient and kind? Or am I jealous, pompous, self-important, rude, concerned with my own problems, quick-tempered, moody, happiest when others suffer? Which is the disciple’s way?

—Terence Sherlock

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