Fourth Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Readings: Deut: 18:15-20
1 Cor 7:32-35
How wonderful is the Lord in His mysteries! Having called His initial disciples who were out fishing or mending their nets he tells them: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” He brings them to Capernaum and enters the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Although St Mark does not give us the details, we know that it was the custom of the Presider of the Synagogue to invite someone to offer a teaching on the Scripture readings. Jesus begins to teach – the disciples get their first lesson on becoming fishers of men. What was new and extraordinary to the people in His teaching was not that it was a new doctrine, but that He taught with authority, with a power that the scribes did not have. Moreover the power He had was able to cast out demons from a man in the congregation who started shouting at Him, who had an unclean spirit, a demon within him. The demon recognizes who Jesus truly is, the Holy One of God. With power He rebukes and commands the demon to be silent and come out of the man. Again the people are amazed, astonished at this display of His power, that even the demons obey Him.
St Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “Deep, unfathomable, and really to be marvelled at is the mystery of our religion. Even the holy angels long to comprehend it. …” Referring to the first Letter of St Peter he continues: “The angels long for insight into the things which the bringers of the Good News, by the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, have now revealed to you.”(1 Pet 1:12) And those angels who penetrated the tremendous mystery of our faith when Christ was born in the flesh gave thanks for us as they sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people upon earth.” Even the Holy Angels wonder at the Mysteries of our Religion and so we ought to also.
The disciples too, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost, are invested with this Divine Power. It is not their own power. It is the Power of the Holy One of God, the Power of the Holy Spirit, the Power that angels wonder at and demons fear. They move from being filled with fear at the events of the Passion, to being totally fearless and empowered as the Holy Spirit descends upon them in tongues of fire. They preach the Word of God in the face of opposition and threats to their lives. They cast out demons. And they even raise people from the dead, acts that have not been given to the Angles to do. No wonder that even Angles marvel at all this!
But despite the power given to the Apostles, they still have a lot more to learn. A major stumbling block for them in their understanding was the incorporation of the Gentiles into the Church. Jesus Himself had never spoken to them about this during His earthly ministry. But St Matthew tells us that His last command to them before He ascended to Heaven was: “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. And lo, I am with you, to the end of the age.” He will therefore be with them and with us too, today. We should therefore have His Power working through us now today and always, provided that we place all our trust in Him. And let us not forget our young people, today especially on (what would be) the feast of St John Bosco, Patron Saint of youth. They too are called to be disciples of Our Lord. The apostles are amazed that the Holy Spirit is given to the Gentiles too. The Church growing is to become a world-wide family, living in the Power of the Holy Spirit, and not simply an isolated group of Jewish Christians.
Today is “Racial Justice” Sunday, a day dedicated especially to highlight the problems associated with all the various forms of racial discrimination in our society. Perhaps we too have to expand our vision more, just as the Apostles were led to do. The Church is not an elite group of Christians but is intended to be a family – God’s family – into which all are invited to participate in. The invitation is extended to all, for God is the Father of us all. In the Collect prayer today we ask God that we honour Him “with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart.” No one is to be excluded from our love, not on racial grounds or on any grounds what so ever. We are asked today especially to see how we may act, whether in the workplace, our neighbourhood or immediate vicinity, governmental structures, or the worldwide scene, anywhere we may perceive a lack of racial equality and reflect if God is calling upon us to act to further His plan of Justice for the world. The Apostles and early disciples needed to have their hearts expanded for love. Christians of all ages have needed to have their hearts expanded for love, in the face of the many assaults on the dignity of the human person. We are no different. We too need to have our hearts being continually expanded for love.
So, let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking and praying to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, to Mary Our Holy Mother and model of our faith, to St Joseph patron of the Universal Church. We pray for their assistance to guide us in these challenging circumstances. In one way or another we are all called to be fishers of men and to act in the Power of the Holy Spirit. We too should be able to say that we have marvelled and continue to marvel at the mysteries of our faith, at the power and authority of Our Lord among us.
Dom Brian Gerard Kelly