Sunday, February 1, 2015

"If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts"

Readings: Deut 18:15-20; Ps 951-2.6-9; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28

In the Letter of James, immediately following the exposition on the necessary relationship between faith and works, we read: "You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble" (2:19). I can't think of a more succinct way of summarizing what we hear in today's Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. In this reading from the first chapter of Mark's Gospel we see Jesus giving an outward demonstration of His authority, which was made clearly manifest in His teaching at the synagogue in Capernaum that sabbath day. He did this by casting an unclean spirit out of a man through whom this spirit spoke words of recognition and fear.

Once again, this is not a case of Jesus healing a man who was mentally ill. It is a record of Jesus casting out a demon. Paired with our first reading from Deuteronomy, this shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy attributed to Moses: "A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen" (Deut 18:15). Jesus demonstrated His authority on a number of occasions by performing signs and wonders. His own attitude, as far I an tell, towards the signs and wonders He performed was ambivalent at best.

Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in the synagogue at Capernaum, by James Tissot

"Anyone who will not listen to my words which the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will hold accountable for it" (Deut 18:19). In the account of the Lord's Transfiguration given in St Mark's Gospel, after the appearance of Moses and Elijah, indicating that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, a cloud overshadowed Peter, James, and John. They heard the voice of the Father saying, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (Mark 9:7).

Merely believing that Jesus Christ is Messiah, Savior, and Lord doesn't get you any farther than it did the unclean spirit that day in Capernaum. In fact, like the demon, such a recognition can be a source of fear and anxiety. This is not what He wants for us. What is lacking, then? You need to hear Him, to listen to Him, and respond in trust to what He says. You can do this in the confidence that His grace will help you respond and His mercy attend you when you fail.

With that in mind, What is Jesus saying to you? How is He calling you to more faithfully follow Him? Do you take time to listen so that you may hear Him speaking to you by means of His Holy Spirit? When you hear the voice of Jesus, listen and do not, harden your heart.

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