4th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021

My Dear People, 

First, I want to congratulate all the ones who are receiving First Communion today. May Jesus bless you especially on this day, and may Jesus in the Eucharist strengthen and guide you  your whole life. 

The call of the first disciples is followed by Jesus’ first miraculous work, an exorcism. By this act Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom (v. 15) becomes dramatically perceptible and concrete. Throughout His public ministry Mark shows Jesus’ progressive dismantling of the powers of darkness; the advancement to his assault on Satan’s kingdom that began with the temptation in the desert (1:13: see 3:23-27).

Jesus proceeds with his new disciples to Capernaum, a small fishing village on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee and the home base of his ministry in Galilee. According to Mark, Capernaum was the hometown of at least two disciples (v.29), and Jesus took up residence there (2:1).  By the first century AD most towns with a sizable Jewish population had a synagogue where the faithful gathered for prayer, readings, and instruction in the Law and the Prophets. As a Jew faithful to the religious customs of His people, Jesus regularly observed the Sabbath by attending the synagogue service (see 3:1; 6:2).

Since any man conversant with the Scriptures could be invited to comment on the readings (see Acts 13:14-15), Jesus takes the occasion to teach.   Mark says nothing there about the content of Jesus’ teaching.  What is most important is its effect.  First, the people are astonished, for he teaches with authority.  Mark will repeatedly emphasize the wonder, awe, and astonishment of Jesus’ listeners at his words and deeds.  In contrast to the scribes, Jesus is not merely offering his opinion or handing on the traditions of biblical interpretation, He speaks as one who has authority in himself to reveal the definitive meaning of the Scriptures.

Second, Jesus’ teaching has the intrinsic effect of exposing evil so that it can be expelled. Mark does not explain if the man with an unclean spirit was a regular synagogue attendee or whether he came specifically to disrupt Jesus’ sermon. But in the presence of Jesus, the grip of evil on the man comes to light and he cries out in fear and rage, “What have you to do with us?”  The spirit is challenging Jesus’ encroachment on the demons’ formerly uncontested territory, evidently aware that His coming portends their downfall.  The spirit claims hidden knowledge of Jesus’ identity, a frequent demonic tactic (3:11; 5:7) that may be intended to catch Jesus off guard or gain some control over him. But the attempt is futile.

“Holy One” is a term usually reserved for God (1 Sam 2:2; Hosea 11:9) but is occasionally used for those who are consecrated in his service as priests or prophets (Num. 16:5-7;Kings 4:9; Ps. 106:16).  Holy One of God  is an accurate title for Jesus (see John 6:69), but not one that he wants to publicize at this point in His mission. He will reveal his identity on his own terms and in his own time, to ensure that it will be rightly understood. 

Jesus sternly rebukes the spirit: “Quiet! (literally, ‘Be muzzled!’) Come out of him!” In a final show of defiance, the unclean spirit convulses the man as it departs, helpless before Jesus' word of command. Already the Baptist’s prophecy of a “mightier one” to come (v. 7) is being fulfilled before the people’s eyes. The demon’s tyranny is over, and the possessed man is set free. 

The people react with amazement:  “What is this? A new teaching with authority.”   They recognize an intrinsic connection between Jesus’ teaching and his power to dispel evil. Jesus' teaching is “new” not only because it has never been heard before, but because it has power to accomplish what it communicates  (Isa. 55:11).    The teaching itself—the revelation of the good news of God and his plan—frees human beings from their captivity to evil (see 1:39; 6:12-13). As a result of this first manifestation of divine authority Jesus’ fame spreads everywhere throughout Galilee.

Yours in Christ, 

Fr. Vincent Clemente


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