Sunday 31 January Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

 

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

 

Jesus, the Expected Prophet.

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:        Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:          We come together to listen to God’s word, believing that Jesus teaches us with authority: we have been rescued from sin and darkness, and given  the hope of heaven.

 

 

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

 

Introduction to the reading: The events in today’s reading take place as the Israelites are camped on the shore of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land.  Moses is near death and is giving final instructions.  He promises that after his death, God will still be with them through another prophet.  Both Jewish and Christian readers have seen this as referring to the future Messiah.

 

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you
a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren—
him you shall heed—
just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God,
or see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’

And the Lord said to me,
‘They have rightly said all that they have spoken.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you
from among their brethren;
and I will put my words in his mouth,
and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
And whoever will not give heed to my words
which he shall speak in my name,
I myself will require it of him.
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name
which I have not commanded him to speak,
or who speaks in the name of other gods,
that same prophet shall die.’

The word of the Lord.

 

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 95:1-2.6-7abc.7d-9 (R. see 7d.8a)

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm.

 

R/. O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts.

 

Come, let us ring out our joy to the Lord;
hail the rock who saves us.
Let us come into his presence, giving thanks;
let us hail him with a song of praise.

 

O come; let us bow and bend low.
Let us kneel before the God who made us,
for he is our God and we
the people who belong to his pasture,
the flock that is led by his hand.

 

O that today you would listen to his voice!
“Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as on that day at Massah in the desert
when your forebears put me to the test;
when they tried me, though they saw my work.

 

R/. O that today you would listen to his voice!
Harden not your hearts.

 

 

Second reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Introduction to the reading: In this section of the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul is responding to their question about whether it is better to remain single or become married.  Paul’s belief was that when you became Christian, you shouldn’t take on a new state in life since he expected Jesus would return in glory very soon.

 

A reading from the first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians.

Brothers and sisters:
I want you to be free from anxieties.
The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord,
how to please the Lord;
but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs,
how to please his wife,
and his interests are divided.
And the unmarried woman or virgin
is anxious about the affairs of the Lord,
how to be holy in body and spirit;
but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs,
how to please her husband.
I say this for your own benefit,
not to lay any restraint upon you,
but to promote good order
and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.

The word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Mark 1:21b-28

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

[In the city of Capernaum] on the sabbath,
Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
And they were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one who had authority,
and not as the scribes.
And immediately there was in their synagogue
a man with an unclean spirit;
and 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.”

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,
“Be silent, and come out of him!”

And the unclean spirit,
convulsing him and crying with a loud voice,
came out of him.
And they were all amazed,
so that they questioned among themselves, saying,
“What is this? A new teaching!
With authority he commands even the unclean spirits,
and they obey him.”
And at once his fame spread everywhere
throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

Ancient people believed that mere humans could not approach God face to face. They would not survive the encounter with the all-powerful and holy One.

Look at people’s reaction to God’s gift of the ten commandments:

“On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the trumpet so that all the people in the camp trembled.”                               (Exodus 19:16)

The people understandably became afraid and stood far off. They said,

“‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’.”                         (Deuteronomy18:16b)

So, they asked Moses to act as their intermediary with God. God accepts their reverential awe and even goes further. God promises them another great prophet who will be like Moses and will bring God’s word to the people.

After 400 years without a prophet, Jesus appears on the scene. Normally prophets begin speaking with the words, “Thus says the Lord.” But Jesus begins his preaching with, “I say to you.” As we plainly see in today’s gospel his words are effective, doing what they say. His words have authority – Jesus has authority. Today we hear how Jesus casts out an evil spirit, and later his word will bring about healings. All these good works reveal the saving presence of God. After the resurrection, Jesus’ disciples will come to realize he wasn’t just another prophet like Moses. They come to understand that he was the real and personal presence of the divine at work in their midst.

Jesus’ relationship to God is shown by the power of his words. Just as God said, “Let there be light,” so Jesus’ word brings light, driving out the darkness caused by sin. In the synagogue Jesus commands the unclean spirit, “Be silent,”  Later when Jesus is in the boat with his disciples crossing the Sea of Galilea and a great storm threatens them, Jesus commands the storm, ‘Be still,’ and the wind ceased and there was a great calm. His words will open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf and raise the dead to life. God’s word in Jesus’ teaching also brings light into the darkness of people’s minds caused by ignorance and sin.

Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s promise to Moses and the people. Speaking through Moses God had promised,

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin and will put my words into his mouth….”                                            (Deuteronomy18:18)

The people are slow to respond to this “one like Moses.” But, the evil spirits are quick to recognize Jesus’ authority and respond to his word,

“Be silent! Come out of him.”

Jesus will not let them speak about him because their words will not flow from faith, but from rivalry and hostility.

Remember that John the Baptizer had promised the one who was to come after him would be mightier than he and would baptize with the Holy Spirit (1:8). In the synagogue we see that Jesus has the promised power of the Holy Spirit to overcome evil and the unclean spirits.

The Internet, the TV news and the front pages of our newspapers show us the many manifestations of evil in our society and world. There are the hijackings and murders and armed robberies all around us, the drug dealers keeping addicts enslaved, the racial injustices, the inhuman conditions in prisons, in the USA the attempt to subvert democracy by invading the Capitol on 6th January 6, the atrocities in the Syrian civil war and the other wars in the Middle east … and so much more.

Besides the unclean spirits in our world, we can ask what unruly spirits disrupt our personal lives? If Jesus would deliver us from them how would our lives change? What would that change say to others about the power of Jesus and the authority of Jesus?

The stunned crowd who witnessed Jesus’ powerful work and heard his teaching asked, “What is this?” (Or, “What does this mean?”)

The gospel poses the same question to us. It is asking us , ‘What does this mean for us?’ It is challenging us to ask ourselves – do we accept Jesus and his way of life? And if we do, how deeply committed are we to him? Are we true to his teachings about forgiveness and love of neighbour?

The gospel announces what is being introduced as “a new teaching with authority.” As followers of Jesus we have to continue to reflect on his teachings, and accept their authority so that we can grow as his disciples.

There are many ways to reflect on the teachings of Jesus. We can join a Bible Study. We can do the online Alpha course and Youth Alpha course. We can join our adult instruction class. We can be part of a Renew group or a faith sharing group. Lent is coming soon, we will have the next season called ‘Live Lent’ to study. Our parish library has an excellent range of books on Catholic spirituality and theology.

Sometimes we can be timid about sharing our faith with another. If we speak out of what Jesus has taught us, our words will also have his anointing power; words that can drive out darkness and fear and bring healing to distressed spirits. If we live as Jesus’ disciples then we will communicate the authority and life Jesus’ teachings have for all people.

Christ-living disciples are powerful signs of God’s kingdom, God’s authority in the world.

We have confidence in Jesus’ words. The power of evil is very present in our world, but God’s power through the Spirit of Jesus can help us overcome it.

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.

Reflection:

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:

  • Whose words and actions have the power to sway us and call us to righteous living?
  • Who gives us perspective and a lens through which to look out at our world to help us find the good and reject the evil?
  • For Christians, Jesus’ words have such authority for us.

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          We turn with confidence to God our Father, knowing that when we come to him in our need, he will help us.

 

Reader:

We pray for the Church: (pause) that the teachings of Jesus will guide and challenge us as we seek to be more authentic disciples.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for our leaders in South Africa: (pause)  that they will hear and comprehend the needs of the powerless and marginalized as legislation and priorities are developed.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray or the grace to be grounded in God: (pause) that each of us, whether celibate, single, married, or widowed, may seek God first in our lives and love others with the love with which God first loves us.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for those who suffer from the effects of alcohol, drugs or other addictions: (pause) that the Lord will deliver them from the things that imperil their life and happiness.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for a successful vaccination program: (pause) that delays will be overcome, as we work towards opening pathways for the distribution of the vaccines.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Leticia Smith

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Mary Sutton, David Paynter and Alan Clemens who died during the week.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine on them.

May they rest in peace.  Amen.

 

Leader:          Let us pray for healing:

Loving God,
we come to you full of anxiety
about what may happen in the coming days and weeks.
Shower us with the peace Jesus promised to his disciples,
and make us into steady pillars for those around us.
In this time of uncertainty and pandemic,
wake us up to the reminder that we are not alone.

Even as we are asked to keep our distance from others,
help us to find ways to reach out to those who need our support. We pray especially for those whose incomes and livelihoods are threatened.
We remember those isolated, lonely and scared.
Loving God, give them your peace,
and through our hands ensure they have what they need.

Sustain, strengthen and protect all medical staff.
Bless them as they offer compassionate care
and show selfless courage in the face of risk.

Guide those who are working to administer the vaccine,
that the rollout may be swift and reach all our people.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:           Faithful God,
your Holy One, Jesus of Nazareth,
spoke the truth with authority,
and you confirmed his teaching by wondrous deeds.

Through his healing presence,
drive far from us all that is unholy,
so that by word and deed
we may proclaim him Messiah and Lord
and bear witness to your power to heal and save.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Amen.

 

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                  Amen.

 

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