Fourth Sunday
in Ordinary Time

A Homily - Cycle B - 2011-2012
by Fr. Luke Dundon

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First Reading - Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Gospel - Mark 1:21-28

Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.  The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.  In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are - the Holy One of God!"  Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet!  Come out of him!"  The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.  All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this?  A new teaching with authority.  He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him."  His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

There is an institution in our world, one which has been around a while, whose members are drawn in by a scrutinizing and elaborate process.  This institution creates its own culture, and its effects have been felt around the world.  Its members must act according to certain rules, and to break them would disrupt the very reason for being there in the first place.  This institution has stability, of yes, for it has authority, one leader in particular, at any one time, whose word is final, whose word MUST be respected and obeyed, without discussion, conjecture or dispute.  If you dare to dispute the final word, the you risk being severely reprimanded, for THIS institution is NOT a democracy, this institution is NOT open to everyone’s equal vote, or chaos might ensue!  No, authority of the central figure is key, HIS word alone guides and gives direction . . .

I’m sure that you already know of the institution I’m speaking of.  For, obviously, the institution I’m referring to, is . . . Major League Baseball.  Indeed, in all the world, the great culture of baseball, whose popularity has spanned the globe, players are carefully chose, and without rules, what would be the point of going to a game?  Stability INDEED exists, through the central authority, the non-democratic authority of the umpire.  When he says safe, you are safe!!!  When he shouts out . . . well, back to the dugout!!!  And if you want to dispute his call, you might as well yelp at a stop sign, or worse, you’ll be thrown out of the game.  No, baseball would not be baseball if we did not have the umpire’s governing authority.  His word is FINAL, his word (out, safe) in a sense determines the REALITY that is to follow.  His word is the final word.  His word settles the anxious and uncertain outcomes of a slide to second base, a collision at home plate, and so many other events that might cause us to toss our peanuts in the air . . .

So, in a sense, every umpire around the nation and around the world imitates our Lord and Savior, whose authority settles the deepest of disputes, even the demonic ones.  Does He want us to hang in the balance?  Does He want us to hover in anxiety?  St. Paul pastorally tells us that he wants us to be free of anxieties.  Like the possessed man, who frantically cries out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? . . . I know who you are - the Holy One of God!!!”  Those are not words of love (“I know who You are, and I LOVE you!”), but rather they are words of panic and fright.  But St. Paul, AS WELL AS the Lord, wants us to FREE of anxieties!!!  Blessed Pope John Paul II said it well in his first address as Pope from the balcony of St. Peter’s, “Non Abbiate Paura!”  Do not have fear!!!  Do not be afraid!!!  Do not be anxious . . . for a married man is anxious about how he pleases his wife, and a married woman is anxious about how she may please her husband . . . and so, in your bulletin, you’ll see a Vocations brochure for the priesthood and religious life!!!  Sorry, couldn’t help myself . . . seriously, though, St. Paul mentions that we should be FREE from anxieties, for he even mentions that the unmarried man is also ANXIOUS about pleasing the Lord . . . priests and couples, religious and parents, we are ALL meant to be FREE from this anxiety which does NOT come from God.  We are to serve Him in PEACE.  Where do we find a break in the anxiety, a medicine to restore tranquility, beginning in our own heart?  Especially in a society which promotes so much of the opposite?  The dignity of life, and the freedom of religious liberty are being threatened in our beloved country, so WHERE are we to find this peace?  And HOW does this connect with major league baseball?

It all connects TODAY with the possessed man.  The poor, possessed man who was anxious, who was scared, who was suffering.  More than any event in baseball, he needed a resolution of HIS conflict.  And he found it, NOT in a deed, but in a Word.  A word which was final.  A word which did not depend on votes.  A word which was DIVINE.  The power of the WORD of ?God, Jesus Himself.  QUIET!!!  COME OUT OF HIM!!!  And, like the umpire, his words defined reality, then and there.  The Word of God created the World, and the WORD of God will save it . . . the Word of God will save us, from our own demons, from our own worries, our own weaknesses, our own errors . . . we only need to BELIEVE IN HIM!!!  We may or may not believe in the umpire’s words, but we MUST believe in Jesus’ words, for these words have a power that is as REAL TODAY as it was thousands of years ago.

So how do we make these reading come alive today, the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, where we are reminded how important it is to LEARN our Faith, even as adults?  We follow His Divine Command, and we QUIET our frenetic selves and listen to Him in His Word, a Word which must be SPOKEN, not just read.  We can do this by sharing His Word in Scripture with our family and friends.  If we set aside some time each day, with family or close friends, READING Jesus’ words together, then the SAME AUTHORITY which cast out demons years ago will cast out whatever we fear or whatever holds us back from Him.  For, truly, contrary to the crazy world we live in, He wants us to be at Peace, and free from any anxiety.  BELIEVE IN the power of His almighty word, the same Word which spoke, and created you and me . . . for, in the end, the WORD OF GOD ALONE GUIDES AND GIVES DIRECTION, and it will save us, it will save our families, and it will finally bring us . . . Peace . . . the Peace of Christ, which will BE with you ALWAYS!!!

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