January 31 - Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time v- Year B

January 30th, 2021

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First Reading  Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Moses tells the people that God will raise up for them a new prophet.

 

Responsorial Psalm  Psalm 95:1-2,6-7,7-9
A song of praise to the Lord.

 

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Paul expresses his concern that those who are married are more likely to face the distractions of earthly life than those who are celibate.

 

Gospel Reading
Mark 1:21-28
Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit and his fame spreads throughout Galilee.

 

Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s Gospel continues our reading from Mark and describes what some believe was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus and the disciples that chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark reports that the people respond to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment, noting Jesus’ authority and contrasting it with the scribes’. Early in Mark’s Gospel we already find evidence of the tension that will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem.

After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.

In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Our modern understanding of illness is very different. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine. Jesus appears to be like these healers, but he heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching.

We are missing the point that Mark is trying to make in this Gospel, however, if we try to explain away the healing work of Jesus. The crowds see in Jesus’ cure of the possessed man further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching. Jesus impresses the crowds through his words, which are manifested with power in his deeds. Mark’s Gospel tells us that because of the authority with which he healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee.

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