Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (28th Jan.)

In this Sunday’s gospel I see the puzzled/astonished crowds, I see a man possessed by unclean spirits and I see Jesus. (Mk 1: 21-28)
Perhaps we can parallel these three ‘persons’ in today’s world as being:

• the masses of people who ask of life’s troubles ‘What does this mean?’;
• those who perpetrate evil and misery in cities and countries;
• and those who, like Jesus, speak with authority because they speak from their personal experience of God.

Where are their meeting places? I think we see them on the world stage, eg, as people respond to situations of desperation either by ignoring them, by justifying them, or by working to alleviate the misery. We see each of these responses in relation to migrants and refugees today.

We see similar responses by people in our neighbourhoods as some struggle with enormous burdens (‘My daughter took her own life – what does this mean?’), while others profit from the social or political systems; at the same time many others selflessly come together to create a better neighbourhood.

The gospel notes that “Jesus’ teaching made a deep impression” on the listeners. Are there people you can think of who make a deep impression on you nowadays, about whom you can say, “I know who you are, a holy one of God”? Such people speak to us in Jesus’ name – perhaps unknown to themselves. What is it about them that impresses you? It is perhaps easier to think of the world leaders who depress us rather than the opposite but all the more important to highlight the good and the positive.

Some answers to our questions might be found in the first reading where Moses stresses the importance of listening. Because today’s world is often noisy, fast-moving, attention-grabbing, we can be suffocated with sounds, gadgets, lights and find it difficult to really listen, to really hear. How can I make space in my daily routine for what is most important? In the second reading from St Paul’s first letter to the people of Corinth he advocates being unmarried as a better way to give undivided attention to the Lord. I don’t think that too many of us would agree with St Paul’s remedy as apt for us today! But what would we advocate instead? To whom – or to what- do we give our time and attention? What would help us to give uncluttered attention to Jesus’ message so that we would recognise it for our times as “a teaching that is new and with authority behind it”?

Sr. Ronnie McCabe OP

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