"FIRST IMPRESSIONS "
FOURTH SUNDAY(B) January 28, 2018
Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 95; 1Corinthians 7: 32-35; Mark 1: 21-28
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Ancient people believed that no human could meet God face-to-face and survive. So, when the Israelites saw the lightning, and heard the thunderings from the mountaintop, they were afraid and asked Moses to be their intermediary with God (Ex 20:18-21). Not only did God speak through Moses, but also promised to send another great prophet like him to bring God’s word to them. Thus, began prophetic tradition.
After four centuries without Israel having a prophet, Jesus appears preaching God’s word. Previously prophets would say, "Thus says the Lord…" And then deliver God’s message. However, Jesus begins his preachings, "I say to you." When he speaks, his words have power to heal, drive out demons and reveal God’s presence. The people were amazed and recognized Jesus’ uniqueness. After today’s exorcism they exclaim, "What is this? A new teaching with authority."
Later, when Jesus rises from the dead the disciples will come to realize that Jesus wasn’t just a prophet like Moses, but the very presence of God working powerfully in their midst, doing good for all in need.
Jesus’ authority reaches out to us over the many centuries since he walked the earth. We are still captured by his words. We feel the authority and power of those words to guide and direct us. How are we to hear his words fresh and anew for our lives? God continues to send us new prophets who can help us discern how to apply the teachings of Jesus to the circumstances of our time and our world.
In Mark’s gospel the power of the demons is strong. It will take one more powerful to overcome the evil powers of sin and death. Mark will show throughout his gospel, what people have already recognized: that Jesus brings with him "a new teaching with authority." He will share with his followers his power to drive out the multitude of unclean spirits that they, and we, meet in the course of our service to our neighbors in his name.
The gospel of Mark begins with Jesus preaching, "The kingdom of God is at hand." He offers us an invitation to follow him by accepting his person and message. He speaks an authoritative word from God to us and we receive it into our hearts and shape our lives according to it. We need help discerning how we are to live according to what Jesus is now saying to us. It’s the modern prophets, personal to us, or known in the greater world, who help us interpret Jesus’ authoritative word for our place and time.
It’s an appropriate moment to reflect on who are the voices that guide our lives today. Whom do we trust and follow? The Pope? The bishops? President Trump, Dorothy Day? A teacher? A local pastor? A close friend? Whose words and examples shape our minds and consciences to Jesus’ word of authority? Pope Francis calls us to be a church of mercy. Scientists warn us about global devastation of the environment. Women speak up about sexual harassment and abuse, etc. Moses was the prophet for his time and for the needs of his people. Who are the Moses-like prophets for this time with our needs?
We are still in chapter 1 of Mark and Jesus is already revealing his prophetic gifts. After driving out the unclean spirit from the man in the synagogue, the people ask, "What is this? A new teaching with authority." Like Moses, Jesus will lead his followers to the fulfillment of God’s promises. There is a double focus in today’s story: one on Jesus as an authoritative teacher (vs. 21-22, 27). The other on Jesus’ power over evil spirits (23-26).
Mark refers most frequently to Jesus as teacher, more than Matthew and Luke.
He does this especially when Jesus performs a miracle: the feeding of the hungry; the cure of the epileptic; the calming of the sea. By recognizing his authority the people put him in the lineage of their religious teachers. But his teaching was backed by his actions. He didn’t just speak of God’s love for people – especially sinners and those distressed by evil forces – he backed his words with powerful acts on behalf of those in need.
The people acknowledged Jesus’ powerful and effective teaching, but they didn’t line up behind him and follow him out of the synagogue. They didn’t make a commitment to follow this teacher who showed forth God’s authoritative presence by his teaching and deeds. They didn’t change their lives. They were admirers, but not followers. Which is something a lot of modern people do – admire the "great teacher Jesus" but not follow him.
The man with the unclean spirit cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?" That’s a good question for us to ask ourselves. What changes for the better has Jesus caused in my life? Then, when we realize his authority over our lives has been a guiding and saving light for us, we are ready to give thanks at our Eucharist of Thanksgiving.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Oh, that today you would hear his voice: "Harden not your
hearts. . ."
On Christmas Eve, our local newspaper, News & Observer, reprinted an editorial first published in the Los Angeles Times by Jesuit priest James Martin. The headline read, "How can you be Christian without caring for poor?" Martin reminds us that Jesus entered this world as the child of a poor family and states, "We must remember that the three of them looked more like the poor Syrian refugees on the news than the well-fed (and usually white) actors who play them in films. We must remember that it is into a life of simplicity, obscurity and poverty that Jesus came." How could Jesus, pure Love, not love and care for those persons that he knew as a child? Loving care for the poor is a primary imperative for his followers to this day.
As one of the historic downtown sidewalk churches, Sacred Heart Cathedral established a reputation of caring for the poor. We do this through both charitable works and efforts to make the world more just. This has become even more important now that, as Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, we have a grand worship space removed from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Specific social justice ministries are listed on the cathedral website (www.raleighcathedral.org) under parish > social justice. Please check them out and see what God is calling you to do. As part of our commitment to ongoing adult continuing education, the Cathedral Social Justice Ministry office offers the Justice Bulletin Board, Sacred HeartBeats monthly e-news, and leads periodic book/luncheon studies, seminars, and weekly meditation. Updates for these are posted monthly in Sacred HeartBeats. To speak further about joining these ministries, receiving our monthly newsletter, or to bring a new social justice ministry to Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, contact Barbara Quinby at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (919) 865-8966.
With so many new parishioners, I thought it would be a good time to reiterate the Cathedral Ministries of Social Justice Mission Statement: "The Social Justice Ministry of the Cathedral is called to engage the parish community in works of social justice and charity, in accordance with the Gospel message and Catholic social teaching through awareness, education and action, which includes solidarity with and direct service to the poor."
How can you be a Christian and not care for the poor?
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
"The people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes."
We have confidence in Jesus’ words. We trust he will continue to be faithful to us as he sends us modern prophets to teach us his ways by their words and example. Regular reflection on Jesus’ teachings can shape us; help us resist evil and turn towards the good. As the crowds acknowledged that day Jesus taught in the synagogue – his teaching has authority.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death
penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form
it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
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3. Our webpage: http://www.PreacherExchange.com - Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736