Father Valan Arockiaswamy

Father Valan

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Jan 28, 2018 Views 201 Listen 6 Downloads 1
Listen Read

First Reading

A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (18:15-20)

Moses spoke to all the people, saying: "A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kin; to him you shall listen. This is exactly what you requested of the Lord, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, "Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die." And the Lord said to me, "This was well said. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin, and will put my words into his mouth; he shall tell them all that I command him. Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name, I myself will make him answer for it. But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.""

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9)


(R) If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the Lord; let us acclaim the rock of our salvation. Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us joyfully sing psalms to Him. (R)

Come, let us bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us. For He is our God, and we are the people He shepherds, the flock He guides. (R)

Oh, that today you would hear His voice: "Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works." (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians (7:32-35)

Brothers and sisters: I should like you to be free of anxieties. An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord. But a married man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and he is divided. An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in both body and spirit. A married woman, on the other hand, is anxious about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. I am telling you this for your own benefit, not to impose a restraint upon you, but for the sake of propriety and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Mark (1:21-28)

Jesus and his disciples came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!" Jesus rebuked him and said, "Quiet! Come out of him!" The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him." His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

Jesus was born in Bethlehem and he grew up in Nazareth. When He was about 30 years old, He went from Nazareth to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, since then known as John the Baptist, Luke (3:23); Matthew (3:13). After His baptism, He went into the desert, where He spent time in prayer and fasting for forty days and nights and was tempted by Satan, Mark (1:12-13). Then, when the time came closer for Jesus to start His ministry, John introduced Him to the crowds as "the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world", John (1:35-36).

Two of John's disciples, namely Andrew and probably John, the son of Zebedee, heard John's declaration, followed Jesus and spent a day with Him. Sometime later, Andrew quickly found his brother Simon and brought him to Jesus. And then, as was read last week that following John's arrest, Jesus returned to the region of Galilee, where he began His public ministry announcing, "... the time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news", and then calling four fishermen - Andrew, Peter, James and John - to follow Him, Mark (1:14-15); Matthew (4:17).

Today's gospel is a continuation of last week's gospel. Jesus and His companions went to Capernaum, where He taught in the local synagogue on the sabbath and healed a man with an unclean spirit, Mark (1). This was not the first miracle. According to the gospel of John, the transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana, in Galilee, is "the first of His miraculous signs, Jesus performed, and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him", John (1:11). John states that right after the wedding, "Jesus went down to Capernaum with His mother, and His brothers and His disciples and stayed there for a few days", John (1:12).

Now, Capernaum is pretty an important place in the gospels. The name Capernaum is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew words kafar meaning "village" and nahum meaning "comfort" or "consolation". So, Capernaum means "village of comfort" or "village of consolation". In the time of Jesus, Capernaum was a Jewish fishing village, located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was Jesus's home during much of his ministry. It was also the home town of the apostles Peter, Andrew, James, John and the tax collector Matthew. According to archaeologists the population of Capernaum at the time of Jesus would have been between 600 to 1,500 inhabitants. Capernaum had a synagogue. Although the original synagogue is long gone, we can still see the ruins of the synagogue that was later built over its foundation, in the fourth century.

A synagogue is the centre of a Jewish religious community, just like a "church" for Christians. It is a place of prayer, study, social gatherings and charity. At the time of Jesus, the Jews living in Israel would go to the temple in Jerusalem three times a year; most went only one time, but went to the local synagogue every Sabbath for worship. Worship included prayers, singing of psalms, reading of Scriptures, as well as teaching and preaching. Jesus also faithfully attended the synagogue on Sabbath. So, Jesus and his followers went to Capernaum; on the Sabbath day, He went to the synagogue and taught, Mark (1:21). Actually, not just anyone could get up and start to teach in the synagogue. One had to be invited. There were regular rabbis and teachers, but there were also guest teachers from time to time. It is worth mentioning here that his disciples were already calling Jesus, "Rabbi" which means Master, John (1:38). So, it may well be that Jesus was invited to teach in the synagogue.

Mark does not tell us what Jesus taught that day nor what the people were expecting to hear from Jesus. But whatever it was, they knew that it was something new and different. What Jesus said had such an impact upon those who were listening that they were literally awestricken. "The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes", Mark (1:22). What might have been the teaching of Jesus that day? Last week we heard Jesus proclaiming the nearness of God's kingdom and the need for repentance and faith, as he began His public ministry, Mark (1:14-15). So, certainly Jesus had said those very words to the people gathered in the synagogue, and they were astonished. Another reason for their "astonishment" was that Jesus taught them, "as one having authority and not as the scribes". That is, Jesus was preaching so differently from that of the Scribes.

The Scribes were called the "teachers" and "interpreters of the Law". Every Sabbath day, they probably simply cited respected rabbis, whilst also acknowledged religious scholars and teachings from the past, to validate what they were saying from the Scriptures. In contrast, Jesus spoke with authority; he was not quoting texts, as the scribes did. Besides, Jesus claimed for Himself a special role as the one who would personally establish the kingdom of God and embody it.

Remember! Jesus was the eternal Son of God who came into our world as a human being. He was sent and specially anointed for this task. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and His mission was approved by God during His baptism. He was fully God and fully man. And so, when He taught, He taught with the full authority of God Himself. Hence, this reality led the people to react in awe.

While Jesus was teaching, a man with an "unclean spirit" suddenly cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?", Mark (1:24). Mark writes the man had an "unclean spirit" whereas Luke writes he was possessed by an "evil spirit". In the Bible, both "unclean spirits" and "evil spirits", refer to "demons". That is, they are those who are possessed by demonic spirits through constant submission to evil. They are spiritually polluted and impure. They are not only wicked themselves, but they delight in wickedness and promote wickedness in others.

Jesus confronted one such a person - a man who had fallen under the influence of an unclean spirit. We do not know how long the man suffered from this unclean spirit nor do we know how he got it. The one thing we know for sure is that the unclean spirit was afraid of Jesus. Not only that, the unclean spirit knew who Jesus was. He shouted, perhaps to gain control over Jesus, "I know who you are - the Holy One of God", Mark (1:24). This was the unclean spirit speaking, not the possessed man. The unclean spirit realized that Jesus lived and worked as God; he was afraid Jesus was going to use His power to destroy him and other evil spirits.

We must bear in mind that Jesus came preaching about the nearness of God's kingdom and, in turn, that meant Satan's kingdom was coming to an end. But the question is how did the unclean spirit recognize who Jesus was while others did not? According to the Bible, angels are spiritual beings created by God to serve Him, to worship Him, and to live in His presence; they are higher than human beings. Some angels have remained obedient to Him and carry out His will, while others disobeyed and rebelled against Him, now standing in active opposition to His work and plan. These are called demons or fallen angels, and they have been banished from heaven with Satan, 2 Peter (2:4); Revelation (12:3-4).

So, the unclean spirit which was in heaven once before in God's presence knew that Jesus was the eternal Son of God, the Holy One, and also knew that Jesus had the power and authority to cast all the unclean spirits out, and he wanted Him not to bother them at all. But Jesus did not ignore this demon. He ordered the spirit, "Quiet! Come out of him!", Mark (1:25).

Immediately, the spirit convulsed or shook the man's body and, with a loud cry, came out of him, Mark (1:26). Seeing this, the people were all so amazed that they asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him", Mark (1:27). Thus, Jesus showed His authority not only in His teaching, but also demonstrated His power and authority over the demonic world. The people were so amazed at what happened that they were all talking about it; the news about Jesus began to spread quickly.

What are some ways we can apply this passage to our own lives?

  • In the New Testament, there are four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ written by four different authors at different time, from different places, to different audiences. Even though they include many of the same miracles, healings, parables and teachings, they have told the story of Jesus from four different perspectives. So, we must read and study the four gospels again and again in order to know Jesus better. I have read the gospels and other passages of the Bible many times. But every time I read these, I am amazed at the teachings of Jesus, just as the people who heard Jesus speak were "amazed" over two thousand years ago. I gain new perspective, a deeper understanding of Jesus, and often a different application of the teachings of Jesus to my life. If you diligently and prayerfully read the gospels, you can't help but be amazed as well.
  • Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan as ruler of this world through His life, death and resurrection and, hence, we now belong to Christ. But Satan has not yet conceded defeat and continues to be in rebellion against God. He and his demons are still at war with the Hosts of Heaven and the Angels of God. They are doing every conceivable thing they can do - seduce, deceive, manipulate, and ultimately destroy God's ultimate creation - Mankind. Satan is real and still causes plenty of damage in the world, often destroying families within the walls of our own homes. However, since we are part of the Body of Christ, we have authority over Satan and his demons, Matthew (10:1).

We do not have to fear Satan or fear any enemy, but we must be alert at all times. We must not to "be like others, who are asleep, but be alert and self-controlled" and, we must not "become drowsy and let our guard down, making us easy targets for our enemy because he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour", 1 Thessalonians (5:6). We must resist Him, be firm in our faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by our brothers and sisters throughout the world, 1 Peter (5:8-9).

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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