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Old Testament: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Psalm               111

Epistle:            1 Corinthians 8:1-13

Gospel:            Mark 1:21-28

Hello friends, my name is Dr. Mark Hobson, and welcome to this homily on the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany. We will begin our video teaching today with the proclamation of the Gospel.

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark + (May the Word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart).

They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and 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.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Gospel of the Lord.

  1. Praise to you, Lord Christ!

Our first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, a word meaning second law or Torah, we find God speaking to the people through Moses. From the Christian perspective, the prophet like Moses is about the advent of Jesus. Muslims believe the coming Muhammad, the Founder of Islam, was foretold in these passages. Jewish people claim that Joshua, the next Jewish leader, was being referred to in this prophecy. A primary reason Christians believe this prophecy is about Jesus is due to the passage, “I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I command” from verse 19. We know that Jesus stated many times that He came to do the Father’s will. This statement from God to Moses seems to confirm this spiritual truth. As modern believers, we take assurance that the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, is the first testament of God speaking to all believers. The Hebrew Bible matters to us; it’s not just “old,” its first.

In Psalm 111, we see an image of the ancient teaching of Hebrew Rabbis who claimed that growing in knowledge is God’s will and call for us to become closer to and be more like the Lord we worship. We are called to study His deeds, to be mindful of the covenant, to grow in understanding, and to revere God’s name. The oral Hebrew teachings called the Mishnah urged believers to grow in knowledge and study of the Scriptures to know God more. This call makes sense for me because, in all relationships, the more we know about a beloved, the more we may love them. God wants a deep, abiding relationship of love with us.

In Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth, he writes not just about dietary issues, but knowledge of God as God knows us. Paul writes in verse 3, “anyone who loves God is known by him.” Our relationship with God is intended to be reciprocal, to know God, love God, and serve God. In turn, God knows us, loves us, and cares for us in ways beyond our understanding. Paul also emphasizes Christians live in community and we should treat those who are especially close to us with special fondness and care. We need to be primary examples of the goodness of God for fellow believers, and in fact, everyone we meet.

Finally, in Mark’s Gospel of chapter one, we witness the first miracle of Jesus, the healing of a man with an unclean spirit. Mark’s Gospel is so interesting to me as the disciples, the closets followers of Jesus, do not know His true identity until the end of the story. In the final chapter 16, Jesus even rebukes the disciples for not believing that He rose from the dead. We see in chapter one, the first creature who recognizes Jesus is a demon. They knew Jesus was the Holy One of God. Yet, the disciples and the witnesses of the miracle said “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!” as if to say, who is this person and what is His source of power?

To provide some context to Mark’s Gospel, most scholars state his story is the first telling of Jesus and his eyewitness account information came mostly from Peter, the one who doubted and denied Jesus until the end of the story. Scripture scholars call this theme of Mark’s Gospel, the “Messianic Secret.” In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus often tells those he heals to keep quiet. Of course, this strategy doesn’t work as even in chapter one, “his fame began to spread.” These same scholars state the reason why Jesus wanted to keep his identity secret until the end of the story is that Jesus focused on the sick, the poor, the marginalized rather than favoring the powerful. This approach is clearly not what the Jewish leaders expected in a Messiah, and Jesus knew they would doubt Him and potentially try to curtail His mission.

I think Mark’s Gospel is clearly good news to us, today, because we know the secret. We know Jesus is the Messiah, the Holy One of God. Mark tells us in chapter 16, verse 20, the last line of the Gospel, “the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”  We are to do likewise by words and actions and let everyone we know and love about the relationship we found in Jesus and His Church. We are called to develop and nurture a personal relationship with Jesus in Word and Sacrament and tell others about our secret. Jesus is the Holy One of God!

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