Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2020 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
“The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority” (Mk 1:22).
People were astonished at Jesus’ teaching because of its newness and authority: “What is this? A new teaching with authority” (Mk 1:27).
In today’s first reading, the Lord says to Moses: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you […] and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him” (Dt 18:18). Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise.
The authority of Moses was grounded in his dialogue with God: “The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to a friend” (Ex 33:11). Ben Sira describes Moses in this way: “Dear to God and human beings, MOSES, whose memory is a blessing. God made him like the angels in honor, and strengthened him with fearful powers” (Sir 45:1–2).
The authority of Jesus comes directly from his unique dialogue and sonship with the Father: “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also” (Jn 5;19).
The exorcism Jesus performed in the Gospel shows that his word is effective: “Jesus rebuked him [the unclean spirit] and said, ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him” (Mk 1:25–26).
In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord says: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; It shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it” (Is 55:11). The author of the Letter to the Hebrews declares: “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb 4:12).
Deliverance from the power of the Devil is a sign that the kingdom of God is at hand. In the Gospel, a demon asks Jesus: “Have you come to destroy us?” (Mk 1:24). Only God himself can overthrow the kingdom of Satan by delivering mankind from the fear of death. Jesus shows his divine authority when he expels the evil spirit. The apostles and their successors will also perform exorcisms but that will be done in Jesus’s name.
The teaching of Jesus is astonishingly new because he fulfills all desire. His presence and preaching quench the thirst of the human heart. As St. Thomas says, “In this life no man can fulfill his desires, nor can any creature satisfy a man’s craving, for God alone satisfies and infinitely surpasses man’s desire.” That is why St. Paul, in the second reading, speaks about the excellency of the vocation to virginity. This vocation proclaims that only God satisfies the human heart. This is true for married people and for those who live a life of complete dedication to God. Moreover, a consecrated person reminds all that “God alone suffices” (St. Teresa of Avila). A man or a woman who does not marry in order to please the Lord bears witness of Jesus’ newness and authority in a very expressive way.
“The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority” (Mk 1:22). May the Holy Spirit give us the grace of being always amazed by Christ. May the recognition of his authority allow us to experience the newness of his life in us. Amen.