Readings for Jan 27-28, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Jack Treloar, SJ | For On Mission
The Gospel reading for this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time sets the tone for Mark’s description of the public ministry of Jesus. Three words stand out as Mark describes the people’s reaction to Jesus — “astonishment,” “amazement” and “authority.” By using these three words, Mark indicates that there is something entirely new and different in this man from Galilee. His teaching is compelling. His actions are definitive. His personality is commanding.
The people in the synagogue at Capernaum were used to hearing about the law during their sabbath gatherings. The lessons given by their leaders were subtle and often difficult to understand. These same leaders were constantly urging the people to obey the law in all its complexities and commands.
There was not much care for the nuances of individual situations or life problems — the law was simply regulations and rules. Jesus’ teaching with authority was so much different from the lessons imparted during synagogue services.
The cure of the man possessed by a demon captures the newness of Jesus beyond any of their imaginations. He not only teaches in a powerful manner, but he also commands the evil spirits. All of this leads to astonishment and amazement. Things are different and singular.
We might look at this opening section of Mark as an interesting tale and dismiss it as something that happened a long time ago. We might also ask whether this Gospel passage has any meaning for us as we live our lives during our own time. In other words, how does this Gospel passage affect my life? Do we experience astonishment, amazement and authority in Jesus’ actions and words?
The life, teaching and actions of Jesus should be just as astonishing and amazing for us as they were for those in his own time. We must learn to keep our minds and hearts open to the working of Jesus in our own day. We might find him in unexpected places and occurrences, but we must watch.
One way of watching is to pay attention to those with whom he associated during his own life — the poor and outcasts.
Jesus was never comfortable around the rich and powerful because their lives were less open to his grace and mercy. His disciples were common people. His friends, like Martha and Mary, enjoyed everyday things like preparing a meal for guests. His family background was that of tradespeople. His religious observance copied that of the ordinary Jew of the time.
In part because of his ordinary and humble surroundings, Jesus’ teaching, actions and personality evoked astonishment, amazement and authority. Associating with the ordinary, the needy, the periphery and the humble improves our watchfulness.
A second way of watching is to listen to Jesus’ teaching about poverty of spirit, meekness and love of God.
I once mentioned in a homily that the people in the congregation were good and holy people. One person said later, “No one has ever told us we are holy.” This is the kind of person that can always be open to the newness of Jesus’ message to a broken world. Living lives characterized by holy poverty and meekness also opens us to Jesus’ presence and action.
Where does Jesus astonish and amaze me in my everyday life? Where does Jesus teach me with authority?
Fr. Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.
The readings for Sunday, Jan. 28, can be found at Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB.