Fourth Sunday of Ordered Time January 28 2018
Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Responsorial Psalm 95; 1st
Corinthians 7:32-35; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 4:16; Mark
Returning home from the last Saturday’s vigil Mass at the
Cathedral, our five year old granddaughter Anna complained,
"I didn’t hear God talking to me." Carol and I fumbled for
words to explain in five-year-old how God speaks to us. We
failed miserably. We live in a very hot media, where each
moment we hear/see information/news. Our words to Anna were
inadequate, incomplete, and mostly irrelevant. I recalled
the day of my first communion. That morning I came to St.
Henry church with the words of Miss Leona Panning -- my
first and second grade teacher -- in mind. "Listen in your
heart to Jesus speaking to you." I listened, and listened,
and listened. I spent much of that celebratory day with
family and god-parents worrying that I had done something
wrong. Jesus didn’t say anything to me, not even in my heart
– or at least not in a language I understood. Maybe Jesus
was speaking in Latin or perhaps Hebrew? I wonder how many
of us have this same experience about God speaking to us.
It’s a daunting question, this communication from God to
us. Oh, sure, the liturgy of the Word is God speaking to us.
The Eucharistic liturgy is God coming to us. God is present
to us in the every-day interactions with nature and with
people. Well then, does God really speak to me? How do I
know it’s God and not last night’s pizza?
The first reading from Deuteronomy speaks in the voice of
Moses. "A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up
for you from among your own kin." With our perspective
enriched by our understanding of the Incarnation we
celebrated at Christmas, we believe this is a prophecy of
the coming of Jesus. Did Moses foresee the Incarnation?
A common error about prophecy is that it foretells the
future. We’d like a prophet here and now to tell us how our
political, our economic, our technological efforts, and our
wars are going to turn out. Will there be a nuclear war;
will the stock market crash; will we ever solve climate
change? We make the fatal mistake of Saul who went to a
fortune teller who channeled the deceased Samuel for a look
into the future. What he learned frightened Saul and clouded
his actions. In the end he fell on his own sword lest he be
made the fool by the Philistines. The future is more about
our choices, our acceptance of God in how we live now than
it does with some undiscoverable plan of God.
There is a predictive part of prophetic utterances. That
prediction is based on the present. If we continue down our
current path we’re certain to reap the chaos and pain that
follows bad choices. Prophets insist that the doom and gloom
in their warning arises from how leaders, individuals, and
groups treat each other. We create our own misery. Every
decent, thinking parent wishes well for their children; by
our actions we create the disasters that will certainly
visit our children’s lives.
Do we need proof of that? Review the first half of the
twentieth century. The Great War of our grandparents ended
with the Treaty of Versailles. That treaty was a treaty of
vengeance. It so robbed the German nation of resources and
dignity that it became the justification for Germany getting
even with Europe. Thus was the seed planted that grew into
World War II. After World War II a different approach was
chosen by the United States, then the world leader. The
United States committed to the Marshall Plan whose purpose
was to rebuild all of Europe – including Germany. Proof of
that approach’s success is the absence of wars among the
nations of Europe since then. Who could have prophesized
this unpopular plan of compassion would have brought sixty
years of peace to Europe? Yet a prophet of God would have
shouted the need for the Marshall Plan, a plan of compassion
The renowned Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, writes that prophecy
sees the present for what it is. The prophet observes
movements and things not as isolated events but as part of a
continuing flow. Rabbi Heschel writes, "The principle to be
kept in mind is to know what we see rather than to see what
we know. Rather than blame things for being obscure, we
should blame ourselves for being biased and prisoners of
self-induced repetitiveness." To put it another way, we see,
hear, smell, touch, and taste the events of our time based
on prejudices formed from experience. The filter through
which we evaluate and understand the events of our time is
self-interest. We even judge God in this way of
self-interest usually asking "what is God for me?" Who
understands God? Who has ears clean enough, open enough to
hear what God speaks to us through his creation, through his
prophets, and through his own Son? "He who has ears, let him
This self-interest filter idea leads anyone who has
studied economic principles to think of Adam Smith’s book,
The Wealth of Nations. First published in 1776, Smith wrote
that self-interest is the motivation for competition,
development of new products, and more efficient methods of
production. Self-interest is rewarded by profit and fame.
Students of Wealth of Nations typically overlook the book
Smith published in 1759. The Theory of Moral Sentiment was
so important to Smith that he dedicated the last days of his
life to updating and rewriting it. In that book Smith
insists society is held together against competitive
self-interests by a natural sympathy instilled by God in
every human. He claims that sympathy is a characteristic of
God. He declares that a society lacking empathy will
eventually self-destruct. Production, competition, and
self-interested human endeavor cannot exist for long unless
there is peace and justice. When we read Smith’s Wealth of
Nations we are led to think our human life is valued by what
we accumulate, how much power we wheel, or how much
influence we command. Yet such a focus is ultimately doomed
to chaos and revolution.
What, then, does this have to do with prophecy
specifically and the readings this Sunday? In a sense Adam
Smith was a prophet. The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures
are often angry predictors of gloom and devastation. Always
they focus on what self-interest, accumulation of wealth,
wielding of power, and seeking influence does to little
people. The prophets blame the wealthy, the powerful, and
the influential for the plight of those on the margins, the
widows, the orphans, the laborers. Rabbi Heschel insists God
cares about and loves each person fully; that belief
underlies all Christian teaching. The prophet is one who is
in fellowship with the feelings of God. God is passionate
about his love for each person, especially the abused, the
taken advantage of, those denied what they need to thrive
and survive. The prophet is in sympathy with the divine
pathos. The prophet is taken into the heart of God and
experiences God’s anguish at the pain and deprivation of the
least of his creation.
In the gospel reading this Sunday we find Jesus speaking
with authority – his own authority. The prophets always
began their prophecies with the words, "Thus says the Lord…"
The prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures claim no personal
authority – they universally complain about the pain being a
prophet brings to them and wish the curse of being a prophet
were not their lot in life. In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus
speaks with his own authority. He casts out the evil spirit
not by calling on God, but by his own words. Here is no
prophet in the line of prophets promised by Moses in the
first reading. Here is the heart of God among men, in the
person of Jesus. Jesus speaks with authority; he brings
healing with his words. What should we think of this?
Think for a moment about what Jesus did, about his
miracles. There is not a single miracle that lacks a
community aspect. Healing, feeding, exorcisms all enable an
excluded individual a return to full participating
membership in the community. We belong together – it is
God’s will. It is God’s will that we are whole and
participate in society. It is not to wealth or power or
influence that Jesus returns the hungry, the wounded, the
ill, or the possessed. It is to fellowship in community –
lacking in violence, lacking in abuse, lacking in
The prophets of today include the bishop of Rome who
wrote of the pain in the world and what we should do about
it. He insists his fellow bishops and priests and religious
are to have the "smell of the sheep on them." In his
encyclical, Laudato Si, he speaks of the poor and the
marginalized. He insists God, the creator of everything,
weeps over the devastation and rape of the earth by the
self-interest of the powerful and the wealthy. The use of
earth’s resources must include taking care of the earth.
Every good farmer understands the soil must be cared for.
But more to the point; God’s love for everyone is declared
to us in the scriptures. God speaks with us there. Are our
ears open? The message is clear: If we are God’s we are to
care about and for each other – all others including the
aliens, the abused, the poor, the ill, and the mentally
The new bishop of Raleigh diocese writes in his letter to
the people in this month’s newsletter. The theme is Mary as
an example to us. His letter is a letter of prophecy. Bishop
Luis Zarama writes:
"We live in a media world. We are bombarded with news,
which, in its great majority, shows us the disastrous
effects of the absence of love, which manifests as violence,
hate, racism, persecutions, death and war. At the same time
a stock market speculates and plays with economic interests
without taking into account the face of the human being.
"All this can lead us to become pessimistic, depressed,
negative, vengeful, violent and selfish beings. How can we,
or what can we do to change in our hearts that pessimistic
and negative spiral?
"By receiving her (Mary), we can go out into the world to
transform the negative into hope, hate into love and
selfishness into mercy, so as to discover in the neighbor
the face of Jesus, the face of love, and in this way restore
the dignity of the human being created by God in love and in
his image and likeness."
The great prophet, Jesus, speaks for God through his
divine nature. His entire public life was about compassion
and mercy. He despised arrogance, he fought hypocrisy, and
he believed the heart was stronger than the law. He brought
God’s mercy and compassion to earth and in the process
brought us forgiveness for our self-interest, our
scapegoating, our manipulation of frayed emotions, and our
insecurity in the face of diversity of language, race,
national origin, gender, and orientation. May we all be the
priests, prophets and kings we became when we were baptized
in Christ! We are truly prophets when we stand for the
truth, for the marginalized, for the alien, for the victim
of war, for the victims of capitalism that serves only the
capitalist. We’ve got a need to repent, to change the
orientation of our hearts. We’ve got a need to understand
and extend compassion and mercy to every human.
"The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face
shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon
you kindly and give you peace!"
Carol & Dennis
THE POWER OF JESUS AT WORK: 4TH SUNDAY B
A lovely line in the Book of Psalms says: ‘The earth is
full of the goodness of the Lord’ (33:5). It certainly is.
The crops keep producing food for our tables. The summer
heat gives way to cooling autumn breezes. Most diseases are
now curable. Tyrants are sometimes overthrown. Social
reforms like pensions for the needy are here to stay.
Conflicts end in reconciliation. Shaky marriages get patched
up. Love survives misunderstandings, thoughtlessness,
insults and indifference. Wars come to an end. Enemies
become friends. We forgive others and are forgiven. Sport
keeps contributing to what is good, decent, and noble about
human beings. A striking example of exceptional goodness is
a prayer scrawled on a piece of wrapping paper found at the
Nazi Concentration Camp at Ravensbruck:
Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will
but all those of ill-will. Do not only remember the
suffering they have subjected us to. Remember the fruits we
brought forth thanks to this suffering – our comradeship,
our loyalty, our humility, our courage and generosity, the
greatness of heart that all of this inspired. And when they
come to judgement, let all these fruits we have borne be
their reward and their forgiveness. [Anthony de Mello]
In short, there is goodness everywhere. But where there
is goodness, there too is God and the Kingdom of God. So
God’s loving rule is still happening among us.
But so too is the anti-kingdom of evil. Its power and
force keeps staring us in the face. Newspapers and news
bulletins report it daily in all its ugly manifestations.
Our own consciences remind us of its hurtful and harmful
influence. It has been reliably reported, for instance, that
1% of the world’s population now owns half of the world’s
wealth. Too many persons work for less than a dollar a day,
and others are denied health and safety protection. Random
acts of terrorism are inflicted on defenceless people.
Refugees exercising their legal rights to seek asylum are
visited with systematic acts of cruelty as deterrents to
others. Persons are being kidnapped and sold into slavery
and sexual degradation. Racism, consumerism, and devastation
of the earth’s natural resources are still raging round the
world. In many places large segments of the population are
involved in unrest and civil war. Violence is growing.
Individuals, high on drugs, smash their targets to the
ground. Bullying is everyhere. What we are facing, then, are
both the evil acts of individuals and evil social
In the days of Jesus on earth, people called different
evil forces ‘demons’. Jesus himself recognised one
super-force behind them all. He named it ‘the EVIL ONE’ -
also known in his day as ‘the Devil’, ‘Lucifer’, ‘the
Enemy’, and ‘Beelzebub’. Today’s gospel is a striking
example of his confrontation with, and victory over, the
‘the Evil One’. As the story tells it, ‘the Evil One’ has
taken possession of a deranged man, who interrupts Jesus as
he teaches and challenges his power and authority over evil.
Jesus does not answer the man’s taunts, but addresses ‘the
Evil One’ sharply and directly: ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’
Throwing the sufferer into convulsions, and with a last loud
and desperate scream, ‘the Evil One’ wriggles out of him. At
long last its victim is free from its torments.
More recently if less dramatically, followers of Jesus in
a particular parish, acting with the power of the Spirit of
Jesus, chased out evil from a disturbed man at Sunday Mass.
From the back of the church he kept repeating the Mass parts
after the priest, softly at first but gradually more loudly
and belligerently, with profanities and mockery thrown in.
Although the man was clearly irrational, some people began
to feel offended and angry. Then something wonderful
happened. At the Sign of Peace, a woman left her pew and
extended her hand to the man. He took it, and then another
person appeared behind the woman, then another. Soon dozens
gathered to offer peace to the troubled intruder, and then
the man began to weep openly. When he sat down, a small
child, touched by his tears, climbed into his lap. The Mass
continued and the poor man never spoke another word. [Alice
In the presence of Jesus, then, Evil did not, and does
not, have the last word!
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
Year B: 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
"He taught them with authority and not like their
Just about this time fifteen years ago, my old French
teacher died – "Monsieur Sam", of Wimbledon College.
When we were boys of 13, religion really didn’t mean very
much to us. We had not yet experienced in our own lives any
real need for God. But Monsieur Sam, our new French teacher,
insisted on starting our French course by teaching us the
Rosary in French. We found out that it was the first thing
he taught every class he took.
And he explained to us very simply why he did that – it
was because he believed that the most important thing he
would ever teach us was not how to communicate in French
(which was, as he freely admitted, a lost cause), but how to
communicate with God – how to pray when you are facing the
moments of great crisis that occur sooner or later in all
For Monsieur Sam, that crisis was during the Second World
War, when he was in North Africa. His army was being
regularly and heavily defeated – losing ground and men. Most
of his regiment - most of his friends – had already been
killed or injured. Every day, he faced terrible dangers. It
was at that time in his life that praying the Rosary became
the most important thing he ever did.
The Rosary celebrates the great moments of crisis in the
life of Jesus. By praying over these times and seeing how
Jesus continued to trust in the goodness and the power of
God, even at the most fearful moments in his life, Monsieur
Sam was able to find the Faith to endure his own time of
I have long since forgotten nearly all of the French that
he taught me. But I have never forgotten his lesson on
prayer. Because he taught us with the authority of a man who
had been there – a man who had faced the desperate struggles
of life with Faith triumphant.
So, in his memory, I would like to say to you today,
"Bonjour, et Merci Beaucoup, Monsieur Sam".
Notre Père, qui
es aux cieux,
Que ton nom soit
Que ton règne
Que ta volonté
soit faite sur la terre comme au ciel.
aujourd’hui notre pain de ce jour.
pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous
soumets pas à la tentation,
car c’est à toi
qu’appartiennent le règne,
la puissance et
la gloire, aux siècles des siècles.
And also in his memory, let us pray that we too may face
our own crises with Faith and with Prayer.
And let us stand and profess our Faith in God in whom we
never walk alone.