Sunday, January 28, 2018

Homily for Today

"I will raise up for them a prophet!" [Deut. 18:18] What a very powerful Bible verse! Good morning my friends, my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Today, we are celebrating the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the First Reading, we heard of God's promise to Moses that He would raise up for us a prophet. This is only one of God's many promises that were made and are found in the Old Testament, each of them having been fulfilled through Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament.

About five weeks ago, we celebrated the arrival of the promised prophet in the incarnation of God through Christ. In a few weeks, we will celebrate the resurrection of the greatest of all prophets, the Lord Jesus.

When reference is made to Jesus as the prophet, it must be understood that the word "prophet" in the days of Moses meant a "mediator" between God and man. Moses was a mediator. He spoke to the people on behalf of God and spoke to God on behalf of the people. Based on that particular function as mediator between God and man, the Lord God promised to raise a prophet just like Moses who would be a Mediator between God and man. This is seen in Jesus who is the Mediator between God and man. Now, "There is one Mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all - this was attested at the right time." [1 Tim. 2:5-6]

The word prophet is symbolic, meaning the promised Messiah. While the people waited for a great prophet to deliver them, the Heavenly Father sent them someone who was greater than a prophet, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus was asked if He was the prophet, He answered, 'No!' [Jn. 1:21] At the same time, the people continued to view Jesus as the promised prophet because He fulfilled all the promises of God the Father through His incarnation as God on earth. [Jn. 6:14, 7:40]

Even St. Peter, when he spoke in Solomon's Portico, he referred to Jesus as being the prophet who was raised by God in fulfillment of the promise made in Deuteronomy 18:18. [Acts 3:22] Stephen spoke in the same way of Jesus when he spoke to the Council [Acts 7:37] before he was stoned to death. [Acts 7:58-60]

Now, while Moses was only a prophet, not being God, there are parallels between him and Jesus. As Jesus had a unique relationship with God the Father, Moses also had a unique relationship with the Lord, God speaking to Moses face to face. [Exo. 33:11] Never has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. [Deut. 34:10]

Next to Jesus who performed the most and greatest miracles, comes Moses. "Moses was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of Israel." [Deut. 34:11-2]

The Lord God promised to Moses that He would raise up for the people a prophet like him [Moses] from among their own people. He would put His words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to the people everything that He commands. [Deut. 18:18] These words echo the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John where it says, "... The word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me." [Jn. 14:24, 17:8, 17:14]

Concluding God's message that is found in the First Reading, Moses said that if anyone does not heed the words that the prophet speaks in the Name of God, God Himself will hold accountable. [Deut. 18:19] Reference to our accountability to God is frequently found in the New Testament. [1 Pet. 4:5; Heb. 13:17] One Bible passage says, "So then, each of us will be accountable to God." [Rom. 14:12]

At the same time, if any prophet speaks in the name of other gods, or speaks in the Name of God a word that He has not commanded the prophet to speak - that prophet shall die. [Deut. 18:20] A fulfillment of this promise is found in the First Book of Kings where the 450 prophets of Baal were killed when Elijah challenged their god against our God, the one and only true God. [1 Kgs. 18:40]

Reviewing today's Second Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, it is a follow-up of last Sunday's Second Reading. Last Sunday, we heard that the virgins deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. [1 Cor. 7:25, 31] They are detached from the world, living in the hope of things to come.

This week, St. Paul tells the believers to lead the life that the Lord has assigned them, to which God has called them. The Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to tell the believers that God wants them to be free from anxieties.

The virgin, the unmarried man and woman, are called to be anxious about the affairs of the Lord, on how to please the Lord so they may be holy in body and spirit. Those who are married experience anxieties regarding the affairs of the world, how to please their spouse, their interest being divided between God and the world.

To live free of anxieties, those who are married must be reasonable, not placing any restraint upon themselves. They have to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord. At the same time, being caught up in the affairs of the world, they have a commitment towards their spouse and their family. They must not neglect this calling for the Spirit of God dwells within everybody. Showing love towards others in obedience to the Commandments, a Christian can enjoy a living faith in Christ that is different from the religious life but still very pleasing in the eyes of God.

When God promised to raise a prophet for the people, this promise was not just for those who are virgins but also for those who are married. This proof is found in the Sacrament of Marriage that is Sacred in the eyes of God.

Moving on to today's Gospel, we heard that Jesus entered the synagogue and taught in Capernaum. Those who heard Him were astounded at His teachings because He taught with authority, not as the scribes. Here, the authority of Jesus is compared to a rabbi who has the power to impose a decision with a binding authority versus a scribe who cannot do so because he is a teacher of a lower rank.

The authority of Jesus is seen throughout the New Testament where He overthrows the rule of Satan, the Prince of this world, by establishing the invisible Kingdom of God on earth.

Then, we heard that there was in the presence of Jesus a man with an unclean spirit. The man 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."

Two things stand out in this incident. First of all, the first miracle performed by Jesus is an exorcism. This is affirmed by the word "epitiman" that is used here to say "rebuke", the word also meaning "to exorcise." The first miracle of an exorcism is a sign that evil is destroyed in the Divine Presence of Jesus.

Secondly, the evil spirit that possessed the man recognised Jesus as the Messiah, He who is anointed with God's Spirit and who possesses power over evil spirits. The evil spirit calls the name of Jesus twice, first as Jesus of Nazareth and then as the Holy One of God. While Jesus had been trying to hide His true identity as the Messiah from the crowd, but not from His true followers, the demons recognized Him and identified His true identity in public.

As we heard earlier, Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to be silent and to come out of the man. Once that happened, those who were present were amazed and asked one another, "What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him." The people had never seen such great power, nor ever heard of it since the days of Moses. The authority of Jesus went beyond performing miracles in the visible world. He had the authority over the invisible world as much as over the visible one. It is no wonder that the people considered Jesus to be the promised prophet!

Summarizing today's Holy Readings, in Jesus, we have seen the fulfillment of God's promise to send a prophet like Moses. Through St. Paul who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, we have heard that God wants us to be free of anxieties in our calling, especially those who are married. Through Jesus, we have heard of his authority that reaches far beyond miraculous manifestations in this world.

As we reflect this week upon this spiritual knowledge and understanding of the Word of God, let us remember the calling that each one of us has received as children of God through the Sacrament of Baptism. Let us answer that calling by living our vocations without anxieties, placing our faith, hope and trust in Jesus who has all authority as the only begotten Son of God.

Finally, let us be thankful to God for providing us with the opportunity to hear His Word today when there are so many throughout the world, in the hospitals, in the senior lodges and in the prisons who do not have this opportunity because of the shortage of priests.

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