By: Fr. Scott Karnik
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time Homily (January 28, 2018):
This is the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. We are in between Christmas and Lent. So it’s a good time to orient ourselves relative to our relationship with Jesus Christ. Christmas is still our orienting point time-wise. Jesus Christ has been born, circumcised, and given His Name. In two weeks, Lent will start and we will concentrate on and prepare for what Jesus will do for us. So in the meantime, we can ask ourselves “who is this Jesus Christ?” “Is this Jesus our Messiah?” “Is this Jesus the One we should worship?” The answers come from the Sacred Scripture that we have heard and studied since Christmas, up to today. From the Feast of the Holy Family, in Luke, Chapter 2, Simeon says this about Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Son of Mary and Joseph: “…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which You (God) have prepared in the sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people, Israel.” From January first, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, St. Paul writes to the Galatians in Chapter 4: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons….God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’” From the Epiphany, in Matthew, Chapter 2, the three Gentile kings find Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Bethlehem. “…they saw the child with Mary, His mother. They prostrated themselves and did Him homage (worshipped Him).” From the Baptism of Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, in Mark, Chapter 1: “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” From the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time, in John’s Gospel, Chapter 1, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” From last Sunday, in Mark, Chapter 1: “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
So who is this Jesus, who we have permitted to be born into our souls, by grace, at Christmas? He is Jesus who is the Salvation God has prepared in the sight of all peoples. He is this Jesus whom God has sent to be born of a woman, born under the law to ransom those under the law so that we can be God’s adopted sons. He is This Jesus, the Messiah and King of the Jews, whom the three kings worshipped in Bethlehem. He is this Jesus whom God has proclaimed as His Beloved Son, with whom He is well-pleased. He is this Jesus, who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, and He is This Jesus who brings the Kingdom of God to fulfillment and tells us to repent and believe in the Gospel. All of these descriptions distinguish This Jesus from anyone else or anything else that would divert us from Him. This Jesus whom we worship is different. This Jesus, whom we see in Sacred Scripture, is our Messiah and Savior and no one else.
That brings us to today’s readings. In Deuteronomy, Moses says that God will send the Israelites a prophet from your own kin and “to him you shall listen.” Prophet is singular. As such, it is a prophecy about the most eminent of prophets, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “Great Prophet who has risen among us.” That’s how the Israelites describe Jesus after witnessing one of His miracles. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus teaches in the synagogue. It says the people are astonished at His teaching. To be astonished is to be filled with excited wonder at something or someone. They are astonished because Jesus teaches authoritatively. Jesus applies the Mosaic Law in new ways. He has authority to do so. That indicates that This Jesus is divine, the Son of God. “To Him you shall listen.” Jesus does not appeal to the authority or the interpretation of others, like the Scribes and Pharisees did. Jesus proves His authority and His divinity by exorcising a demon from a man. It requires a miracle to do so. Jesus does it. Satan and his demons are powerless against this Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. Even the demon obeys Jesus. This demon has to obey Him. This demon knows who Jesus is: “the Holy One of God.” Yet Jesus says “Quiet. Come out of him.” Why? Because Jesus refuses to permit a demon to testify about Him. Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior, is diametrically opposed to Satan, his demons, and sinfulness. He will not have it. Jesus wants us to testify about Him. So from today’s readings, this Jesus, born in a manger and in our hearts, is a prophet, who teaches in a new way and has authority and power to exorcise demons. This Jesus is different from any other person or thing that would proclaim himself Messiah, Savior, and God.
Finally, Psalm 95 invites us to worship Jesus in the Temple, here, in this church, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Fargo, North Dakota, on this day. In the form of a church, a new body of worship, we behold Yahweh’s power in building and in ritual. We are secure in Jesus here in this sanctuary, in personal contact with Him. We kneel and worship Yahweh, this Jesus, as Shepherd of Israel and our Good Shepherd. So you are in the right place, worshipping the right Jesus, who saves us at Easter. May we obey His Word. May we do one more thing; accept and consume His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, because Jesus is here, in this sanctuary, in this Church. May we offer ourselves to Him and be transformed by Him, this Jesus, whom the Gospels are revealing to us as we proceed towards Lent and to Jesus’s miraculous events at Easter.