Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B

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Donald X. Burt, O.S.A.
1929 – 2014

Readings
Dt 18: 15-20
Ps 95: 1-2, 6-7, 7-9
1 Cor 7: 32-35
Mk 1: 21-28

Jesus was about 4 months into his public life when the incident described in today’s gospel took place. By this time he had gathered his first disciples around him. He moved with them from Jerusalem (it was already dangerous for him there), through the alien land of Samaria, into Galilee. He stopped in his home town of Nazareth for a day or so but, sensing the enmity of old friends [who were insulted when he tried to preach to them], he moved quickly to the town of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.

Throughout his public life Capernaum was one of his favorite places. He felt comfortable there. In Bethlehem he had been treated as a stranger. In Nazareth he was treated as a neighbor with delusions of grandeur. In Jerusalem he was treated as an enemy. In Capernaum he was treated as an interesting man with a message of hope.

It is for this reason that he was allowed to preach in the synagogue. It was also for this reason that he performed some of his first healing miracles there. In Capernaum for the first time (except for the “Mary-induced” miracle at Cana) he began to preach by action as well as by word. He not only talked about his powers and his good feelings for the suffering, he demonstrated them. The Savior of eternity began to act like a savior in time by rescuing the sick from the bad times they had to put up with. He proved beyond question that suffering and pain and death and distress are not wanted by God for any human being. They are not to be embraced; they just sometimes must be endured.

His first miracle was in conquering the power of evil, curing a poor man who was possessed by devils. It was an awesome event, moving the crowds to a mixture of wonder and fear. It showed them that Jesus was much more than an ordinary good human being. Jesus fought with the powers of evil as a superior. When he spoke, the devils obeyed. He proved that no human can be possessed by foreign evil powers if they are “owned” by God.

The paradox is that the one devil that Jesus cannot control is the devil we sometimes make of ourselves. The one evil that he cannot exorcize is the devilishness deep inside us which causes our sin. Only we, with the help of God, can cast out that devil.

At the beginning of his public life Jesus climbed a mountain and conquered the evil temptations of Satan. In less than three years he would climb another mountain and be killed by the devil in the hearts of his persecutors. For now, he walked the streets of Capernaum curing those who asked for release from the evil that twisted their lives.

It was truly a happy time in the life of Jesus. He had his friends around him. He spoke and people listened. He acted with power and cured their sicknesses. Jesus seemed at peace with the world and its people. People came to him in faith and he reached out to them with love. Indeed, a good time was had by all. It would not last. In three years Jesus would be killed by many of the same people that he now cured.

But for now, this first year of his public life looked like a very good year and Jesus and his friends were very happy. Later on his disciples would remember it as a taste of heaven on the peaceful shores of the Sea of Galilee.