4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“He taught them as one having authority.” Entrance Antiphon: Ps 106(105):47 — “Save us, O Lord our God! And gather us from the nations, to give thanks to Your holy name, and make it our glory to praise You.” First Reading: Dt 18:15-20 — “I will raise up a prophet and I will put My words into his mouth.” Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9 — “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Second Reading: 1 Cor 7:32-35 — “A virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy.” Alleluia: Mt 4:16 — Alleluia, alleluia.“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.” Alleluia, alleluia. Gospel: Mk 1:21-28 — “He taught them as one having authority.” Communion Antiphon: Ps 31(30):17-18 — “Let Your face shine on Your servant. Save me in Your merciful love. O Lord, let me never be put to shame, for I call on You.” Well, let me begin my homily today by asking all of you a question. How many of you remember your Baptism? I ask that because last week, we learned a little about Baptism ... the first Sacrament of Initiation … the Sacrament in which we accept Christ’s mission and are made Priests, Prophets and Kings. Today, to follow-up a bit, let me explain how that happens. During the Baptismal Rite, in the prayer during the second anointing ... the anointing with Sacred Chrism on the individual’s head, the celebrant says: “Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, has freed you from sin, given you new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and joined you to His people. He now anoints you with the Chrism of salvation, so that you may remain as a member of Christ, Priest, Prophet, and King, unto eternal life.” And so, in the homily last week we also learned a little bit about what that actually means as a Christian when we accept Jesus’ mission ... when we commit to becoming Priest, Prophet, and King. Baptism was the first step. For most of us here, we re-established those baptismal promises prior to the Bishop anointing us at our Confirmation ... when we made that commitment to accept Christ’s mission ourselves. And we are also all reminded of our mission each and every year when we renew those promises at Easter. So having said all that ... this morning ... I challenge you to consider yet again … have you thought about those Baptismal promises you made? ... do you actually take them to heart? ... do you try to live your Baptismal promises out each and every day? Today, during the Liturgy of the Word, we heard stories of Moses, Paul and Jesus, and how they acted as prophets. And they are but three ... if you think about it, there are also many other special prophets ... special persons ... Saints and others ... present throughout history. As we commemorate Saints during daily Mass each week, we look at their lives and we’re further challenged to identify those individuals present around us today acting as prophets. I also ask you to also consider that a prophet (or a Saint) isn’t only a prophet by what they say. Actions can often speak louder than words ... that’s what heard Saint Francis of Assisi say ... “Preach always ... sometimes use words” ... right? And so, let’s go one step further ... having said all that, ask yourselves ... can I be a prophet? ... do my words and actions provide an example of what I believe? In the First Reading, we see God promising the Israelites through Moses that God will remain with them in the years to come. We are told God will raise up a prophet, a person who will teach the Word of God to the people as Moses did. Scripture scholar Father Timothy P. Schehr, Ph.D. calls these people “life-agents.” These individuals try to cultivate and preserve the spiritual life … the spiritual welfare … of the people. Prophets were and still are commissioned to teach the “life-giving Word of God.” This is the primary task of the prophet and nothing else is supposed to distract him or her from this. It is an awesome privilege and responsibility to be blessed with the Spirit of God, to be able to bring the guidance of God to the people, by what they say, what they do, and who they are. In the Gospel this weekend, we see Jesus teaching and using His divine authority to expel a demon. Jesus easily dismisses a spirit that was drawing the person away from God. He taught with authority and the people around Him recognized it. How do these actions of God continue in our world today? And who is or who was the prophet to come as promised in the First Reading? Historians in our midst might be able to name some of these who have stood the test of time and appear in our history books or our directory of Saints. But think about it … who are some of the prophets of more recent generations? Who are the prophets being called now ... today? Who were and who are those willing to be “life-agents?” Who are those speaking the “life-giving Word of God?” Could it be you? I asked myself those questions when I was preparing this homily and several individuals came to my mind ... perhaps a list of modern-day prophets or life-agents might include: Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Sojourner Truth, Sr. Dorothy Stang, SSND, and / or Pope Saint John Paul II ... and I’m sure you could all come up with a few yourselves, but the fact of the matter is that we all need to be prophets … we all need to be “life agents.” God knows there is a need for the “life-giving Word of God” to come to bear on a host of issues today such as racism, hatred, greed, selfishness, prejudice, bigotry, slander, partisanship, warfare, domestic violence, infidelity, and the list could go on and on, couldn’t it? Are you willing to speak the word of God to the people as Moses did? Guess what … parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, single adults, teenagers, grade school children … each and every one of you can be “life-agents” … it doesn’t have to be a Priest or religious. And so, the next logical question might be: If God asked you, would you be willing? And the follow-up to that is: How would you know God was asking? Would you be willing to get still enough to hear the voice of God within your own heart? Spiritual disciplines and practices allow people to know they have been chosen to speak God’s Word with their lives. Prayer, praying with Scripture, spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, either in Adoration or before the Tabernacle a few minutes before Mass begins. All of us have the potential to be God’s “life-agents” ... by virtue of our Baptism, that is part of the mission we accepted at our Baptism and reaffirm every time we renew our Baptismal promises. In this weekend’s Gospel, Jesus used His divine authority to expel a demon.Demons continue to afflict people today and need to be expelled. I have no doubt that each one of us could draw up a list of demons we see possessing ourselves, our friends, and our families. Addictions are but one form of demon that can possess us whether it is to alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, food, sex, stealing, cheating, lying, etc. etc. etc. And I’m sure we could name many other demons afflicting us and those around us. Participating in a spirituality of one kind or another seems essential for staying in touch with Jesus and His Holy Spirit who can effect change, healing, transformation. We miss the opportunity to be healed when the busy-ness of our lives keeps us from connecting with the Holy Spirit who wishes to free us. We miss the opportunity to be healed when we put other things before our faith. God wants to be involved in our lives ... How willing are we to be “life-agents” of God? Jesus and His Spirit enter into us through the Eucharist … through the blessed meal we will celebrate and receive in little while from this table. Jesus invites us to be healed and to be prophets … to be life-agents in our world today. Are you ready?