Sunday, January 28, 2018

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Even Demons Obey

Today's readings tell us about Jesus' authority and celibacy as a way of life for those who serve the Lord.

In the first reading, we are told about the promise of Christ.  Moses tells the people that a prophet will come from God and from the Hebrews.  All must listen to Him.  We see the foreshadowing of the Messiah. Jesus was born from the lineage of King David. He was a Jew. God sent Him (John 3:16). This is all common knowledge to any Christian who knows his or her faith well. Ordinary Time is a period where we are introduced to Christ and His teachings. A good homilist will capitalize on these readings and educated his congregation about Christ and His origin, as well as, why we should listen to Him. The responsorial Psalm reminds us that we must listen to His voice and not harden our hearts. We must be happy and joyful in the Lord. It pains me to see some fellow Catholics treat the faith as some obligation that is done on Sundays. Moreover, it also pains me to see fellow Catholics live out their faith mechanically. Recently, the Holy Father Pope Francis married a couple while on his flight. I was shocked to see on Twitter the many insults directed at the pope over this. They attacked him for doing this in a plane citing canon law and what not regarding the location of a marriage and so forth. Apparently, they forgot, did not know or willfully ignored the fact that the pope is the legislator in chief, so to speak. This attitude of trying to know more than the pope or thinking one is more Catholic than him or any other Catholic is a hardening of the heart. It is a fake faith that is set on pharisaic tendencies. We must not harden our hearts like this. We must bow down in worship to the Lord and this means being humble.  We are the people He shepherds. God guides us. The Holy Spirit guides the Church. Many times, we may see the Church move in a direction that causes eyebrows to rise. This is a normal reaction. We are human. Humans often do not like anything that appears to be a change. However, we must not harden our hearts to the Holy Spirit by protesting where His wind blows the sails of the Church or boat of Peter.

The second reading reminds us how important it is to serve God. It is so important that everything else becomes secondary or non-existent.  St. Paul tells us that those who are unmarried are concerned about the things of the lord. Those who are married are concerned about significant others and family. St. Paul suggests that those who want to serve God remain as he is, celibate and chaste. This is why our Church values celibacy. Celibacy is not a dogma, it can be done away with. It is a mere discipline. This does not mean that it is bad. Celibacy is practical for the reason St. Paul tells us. Those who are celibate can focus on God. This does not mean that those who are married cannot serve God. They can and do serve God in their respective state of life. However, a priest or religious serves God all the time in the life of the Church. He or she has no family, wife or husband to care for or attend to. There is talk now about ordaining older men to serve in remote areas. This is possible and a good solution to areas which lack a priest. However, this does not mean that celibacy will be done away with. The Roman or Latin rite will always have celibacy as its rule. Orthodox Churches allow their priests to marry. However, their bishops are not married. By being celibate, a man can focus on God and his parish. Can you imagine a priest with a wife and kids serving at a parish? The priest would have to earn a better wage to care for his family. He would have to be on call for both his family and parishioners and so on. This would make things extremely difficult. In fact, the Catholic Church restored celibacy as the rule because of this and the fact that widows wanted Church property after their priest-husbands passed away. celibacy makes sense and allows a man (priest/brother) and a woman (religious sister) to grow more in the Lord and focus on Him and the Church. 

Finally, the in the Gospel, we read of Jesus speaking with authority. He taught the people and astonished them. Jesus was a carpenter's son. He was not a doctor, lawyer, physicist etc. Jesus did not have a high school diploma or college degree. Those things did not exist then, but the point is that Jesus was not "well-educated" in the sense that we understand education. He was a simple soul living in Israel. However, He spoke better than the best philosophers and teachers of Judaism in His time.  His knowledge is greater that even Aristotle, Plato, Aquinas, Augustine, Scotus, Einstein, Hawking etc.  This was because He was and IS the one. He was the Messiah that was expected by the Jews. He spoke in God's name because He is God and the Son of God. His authority is so great that even the unclean spirits obeyed when He told them to shut up and leave the man in the synagogue. If any other human told a demon to shut up, that human would be tossed around like a doll. This is why an exorcist can only cast out demons in Jesus' name and not his own. The Church's authority, the popes and clergy's authority; even the Bible's authority comes from Jesus Christ.  The aforementioned would be nothing but mere men and books without Christ. 

Jesus was the God-Man; two natures and one personhood. He is Emmanuel or God among us. All authority is His. He existed before all else existed as we read in the first chapter of John. Today's Gospels hows us that Jesus is the one Moses spoke of. He speaks for God and comes from the Hebrews. We see how God is not a liar. When God says something will happen or not happen, that is what will be. This is why we who believe in Jesus Christ must never fear even when things are hairy in life.  Life is hard. Life is tough. Life can beat us up. However, we believe in the one who has authority over it. We believe in the one who has authority even over the demons of hell and of death itself. God is awesome.  Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ who is loving and merciful.


Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012818.cfm



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