We continue on this week in the Ordinary Time of our Church Year that I have called [Extra] due to the on-going challenge that this time of year always calls forth from those who consider themselves serious Christians–that is, following in Jesus’ footsteps–not always the most “chosen” path to follow, even among those who call themselves, “Christian.” This week we are blessed with a homily from Pastor Dick Dahl–thanks Dick! We are encouraged to think about “who” are “prophets” in our midst, even among those who we might not consider…
Please stay well friends and be in touch if I can help you in any way, by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 507-429-3616.
Peace and love,
Be with us O God—keep us safe and gather us together from among the nations, that together, we may proclaim your holy name and always give you praise.
Let Us Pray
Loving God, help us to love you with all our hearts and to love all people as you love them. Bless all of us with the gift of your kin-dom. May we serve you with our every desire. We ask this of you, in Jesus’ name and with the Spirit, One God, living and loving us, forever and ever, Amen.
- Deuteronomy 18: 15-20
- 1 Corinthians 7: 32-34, 35
- Mark 1: 21-28
Homily from Pastor Dick Dahl
Friends, I will begin today by sharing the thoughts of various biblical commentators on today’s readings after which I will pose some questions for us to think about and answer for ourselves under the guidance of the Holy Spirit poured in our hearts, by our Mother/Father God through Jesus.
One theme in today’s readings is authority. In this first reading Moses tells the Israelites that the Lord will raise up a prophet, and the Lord says, “I will put my words in his mouth.”
The challenge is how to recognize one who speaks with such authority? Tracing the line of authority was very important in Jewish biblical culture–for example, who did this rabbi study under and by whom was he trained? In our culture we have often connected authority with the source of one’s education (Harvard, Winona State) or their title or role in life–professor, priest, doctor, teacher, policeman, or parent.
Pope Francis said the following about prophets: Being prophets may sometimes imply making waves. I do not know how to put it. … Prophecy makes noise, uproar, some say “a mess.” But in reality…prophecy announces the spirit of the Gospel. “A Big Heart Open to God” America Magazine, Sept. 30, 2013) John Lewis called it “making good trouble.”
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
A Thimbleful of Love
The reading from Corinthians will probably infuriate its share of people. To top it off, Paul says it’s for our own good. (However) there is ample evidence that celibacy and virginity guarantee neither single-minded service nor whole-hearted devotion to the Lord. Also who can doubt that among married people are numbered some of the holiest people we know? And, among priests and religious, who has not found people capable of prodigious mediocrity? Or worse.
Certainly an unmarried person devoted to God will have more time for service of others, especially on an emergency basis, and also have more time for quiet and isolated prayer. All mothers and fathers I have ever known, immersed in the demands of labor and family, have in some way sighed for the time to do such things.
But the crucially operative word is “devoted to God.” If that is not there, all the “worry-less” free time in the world will not yield a thimbleful of love. And as Paul has written elsewhere, with “devotedness to God” even the most ordinary experiences of parenting, family, and spousal love can be astounding revelations of God’s grace and intimacy in our lives. John Kavanaugh, SJ
Teaching With Authority
Mark viewed the fact that Jesus acted with authority so important that the dramatic healing of the demoniac in the Caperrnaum synagogue is the first action that he narrates after the calling of the first disciples. Each evangelist chooses a different deed of Jesus with which to begin the story of his public life—Matthew begins with the Sermon on the Mount, Luke with the reading of Isaiah in Nazareth, but Mark chose this scene at Capernaum in which the people are struck by the way Jesus taught as one having authority followed by his deliverance of a man possessed by an unclean spirit.
And his presentation of the event is nearly as startling and puzzling as the original experience must have been for those present that evening in the synagogue. A word of command is followed by convulsion and a scream, resulting in complete liberation.
Curiously, the crowd murmurs, “What is this? A new teaching with authority!” They have just witnessed a powerful example of therapy, and they call it pedagogy. What’s more, though they refer to teaching, the account has mentioned not a word of Jesus’ teaching.
This powerful episode puts in bold relief the truth that the gospel we respond to in faith is not simply a new set of ideas but a truth that is meant to transform our lives. And it is that transformation which mediates God’s power to deal with the evil in the world. The power of the kingdom of God over the kingdom of Satan is achieved by the creation of a new human family made up of everyone who does the will of God. A community of converted people is God’s secret weapon against the power of evil in the world.
Let us be encouraged that weakness is an opening for God’s healing and liberating power. When we find ourselves depressed and oppressed by the evil we detect in society (and even in ourselves), perhaps we best hear the authoritative teaching of Jesus when we hear it as a call to our own further conversion. If that seems to touch us where we are weakest, let us be encouraged that such weakness is an opening for God’s healing and liberating power. As Paul said, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Cor 12:9) Dennis Hamm, SJ
It is not the unclean spirit and the possessed man that trouble Jesus’ audience. They are disturbed because Jesus is acting totally out of line with his inherited status. This artisan from Nazareth dares to teach “as one having authority” in the Capernaum synagogue. Who gave him authority to teach? As the listeners puzzle over Jesus’ behavior, his teaching, and his manner of teaching, a man possessed by an unclean spirit interrupts the setting by shrieking.
The spirit who possessed the man in the synagogue is central in this story because he knows Jesus’ identity far better than Jesus’ compatriots do. He knows Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Much to the amazement of the people, Jesus is not controlled or cowed by this unclean spirit. Instead, Jesus shows that his power is stronger than that of the unclean spirit. Jesus commands it to come out of the man, and it does!
The people now have an answer to why Jesus teaches “with authority, and not as the scribes.” Clearly, Jesus possesses powers stronger than those of ordinary human beings. Mark concludes by noting: “At once his reputation began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.”
The Western tendency to rationalize the ancient understanding of spirits is rooted in the fact that Westerners have much more power over their lives and circumstances than the ancients believed that they had. Today’s reflection invites Westerners to consider how wisely or imprudently they use their power. John J. Pilch
After considering the above reflections (in which I inserted a few words in parentheses), I suggest we think about who we recognize as speaking and acting with authority. We live in a time saturated with misinformation and outrageous conspiracy theories that shockingly otherwise intelligent people believe and base their lives on. The very existence of objective truth has been questioned and often derided as “fake news.” It reminds me of the words attributed to Pilate, “What is truth?” before he buckled to the pressure of the crowd and condemned Jesus to death. In brief, who is authentic? Who expresses God’s words and love to us?
Many today, after the fact, point to Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, John Lewis, and Archbishop Oscar Romero, among others. There are also likely people in your lives who act with such authenticity, whose words and lives exude authority without the unnecessary accutrements of titles or degrees.
I think of Pope Francis—not because of his title but in view of the authenticity of his words and actions. In his recent encyclical letter (Fratelli Tutti), addressed to all his brothers and sisters, he begins by describing how Francis of Assisi, even during the time of the Crusades, made an arduous journey to Sultan Malik-el-Kamil in Egypt. The Pope writes, “Francis went to meet the Sultan with the same attitude that he instilled in his disciples: if they found themselves “among the Saracens…”, without renouncing their own identity they were not to ‘engage in arguments or disputes, but be subject to every human creature for God’s sake.’ In the context of the times, this was an extraordinary recommendation. ….Francis urged that all forms of hostility or conflict be avoided and that a humble ‘subjection’ be shown to those who did not share his faith.”
What a message to us now, at this time! Pope Francis offers St. Francis as a model to free ourselves “of the desire to wield power over others” and to seek “to live in harmony with all.” Pope Francis felt encouraged by the Grand Iman Ahmad Al-Tayyeb whom he met in Abu Dhabi. Together they declared, “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters.”
Pope Francis is seeking to guide us as St. Paul sought to do with the Christians at Corinth, namely to help us “devote ourselves entirely to God.”
In today’s Gospel reading, in place of writing any words of Jesus’ new teaching, Mark demonstrated it–by describing Jesus calling out the unclean spirit from the man convulsed by it. We are challenged to be mediators of Jesus’ all-inclusive love as we seek to overcome the lies and evil of untruth and divisive tribalism expressed in hostility toward immigrants, people of races different than our own, greed, and disrespect even for the planet that nurtures us. We have humble but powerful prophets from the past and from the present to guide us.
Prayers of the Faithful
Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- Jesus, our Brother, as we reflect on living our ordinary lives extraordinarily well, give us the strength to be true disciples in action, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- O God, be with all world leaders—and those in our country, especially our new president and vice-president and throughout the world—instill within each the wisdom of your Spirit to lead their people well. Help all to find the ways to peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- Loving God, give each of us health of body, mind and spirit–especially those struggling today with illness beyond what they feel capable of bearing,—give each one your strength and wonderful gift of peace, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- Loving Jesus, help those looking for work to find what they need, be with those offering work, help each to move in justice to offer a living wage, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- O God, in this new year help us to strive to be people of peace, not war—help us to remember that Jesus has glorified our humanity by his presence in it, help us to treat people and our world accordingly, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- Loving God, be with each of us today giving us what we most need in life, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- For our community, All Are One, continue to give us welcoming hearts to be open to all who come to us, help us to discern the new ways you may wish to lead our community, and make it possible to soon be together again, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
- Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week, from COVID and all other causes—give them your peace, be with those our friends and relatives who are newly bereaved in this New Year, to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
9. Be the light that individuals, family members and friends, and church communities need to work through the divisions caused by the past four years, we pray—Response: “Jesus our light, show us the way.”
***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts, pause, we pray—then response
Let Us Pray
Loving God, be our strength, give us your wisdom; show us the way to be true lights in our world. Let our fear dissipate as we consider what needs to be done as your disciples. Give us your heart to love our world and your people. Let us never be afraid to speak or act for the truth especially when people suffer for lack of the truth. Help us to be able to walk a bit in others’ shoes especially those we find hard to love—give us your understanding and your mercy always. Surround our lives with your care. Bless us, keep us, and hold us in your love—we ask all this of you, Loving Creator, Savior, Spirit—one God, living within us and loving us forever and ever, Amen.
Let Us Pray—Again my friends, we can’t be together, but please remember that Jesus is always with us!
Prayer of Communion
Loving Jesus, always invigorate us with faith in You and help us to share You with our world—we ask this in your wonderful name, Amen.