Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 29, 2012 Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28 At the beginning of Mark’s story of the Son of God, we read of the calling of the first disciples (1:16-20) and the confrontation with evil (1:21-28). The calling, influenced by the compelling calls of the prophets (e.g., Isaiah 6:1-13; Jeremiah 1:14-19), is a model of discipleship. Jesus is not a solitary prophet but one who calls companions “to be with him” (Mark 3:14); he enters the lives of four people engaged in their ordinary occupations, simply says, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17), and they immediately leave everything to follow him. The story of Jesus in the Capernaum synagogue inaugurates the first day of his ministry which consists of exorcisms and healings. The story reflects contemporary Jewish thought that the coming of God’s kingdom would mark the defeat of evil, which is personified in an array of demons and unclean spirits. Jesus’ word is so powerful that people abandon their occupations and follow him, and even demonic powers are powerless before it. Jesus summons people to a change of heart, to take a new look at their lives and put their trust in the good news. This is not simply a story from the past, but one that continues to speak powerfully and prophetically to people today. On this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time, both the first reading (Deuteronomy 18:15-20) and the Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) raise the issue of the authority of those who speak the Word of God. Authentic prophets taught with authority because God put his own words into their mouths. In the first reading, Moses tells the people that God will send a prophet from the line of the Israelites. God commands everyone to listen to this prophet, whom we come to recognize as Jesus. Jesus astonishes the people in the Capernaum synagogue with his teaching and authority. He taught with authority because he is the living Word of God. We are all witnesses to this living Word who is Jesus. We have no authority of our own; we simply proclaim his Word. Each member of the Church, by virtue of baptism and confirmation, has a prophetic role, and echoes the Word of God himself, both by words and example. We must walk our talk! Authentic prophets were strident opponents of the status quo. They recognized and felt the injustice that kings and priests and false prophets wanted to whitewash. They shared the groans of the oppressed poor, of widows, orphans and the dispossessed, and articulated those groans in cries of woe. They denounced the system, but denounced a system in which they were often enmeshed. They experienced deeply what was wrong with that system, and did everything they could to bring about change from within the system. Authentic prophets spoke the truth face-to-face with power, to powerful men and women whom the prophets knew intimately, frequently from their own position of power. And often, the prophets were in the employ of those whom they challenged! Finally, I offer a word on our own “prophetic” efforts to bring about change in the Church. I will be forever grateful to the late Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles for having instilled these ideas in my mind and heart years ago. The then Father Dulles said that reformers ought to speak prophetically. This may well be true, provided that the nature of prophecy be correctly understood. Father said that St. Thomas Aquinas made an essential distinction between prophecy as it functioned in the Old Testament and as it functions within the Church. The ancient prophets were sent for two purposes: “To establish the faith and to rectify behaviour.” In our day, Father Dulles continued, “the faith is already founded, because the things promised of old have been fulfilled in Christ. But prophecy which has as its goal to rectify behaviour neither ceases nor will ever cease.” How do we speak the Word of God with authority today? How do we use our authority to further the Kingdom of God? How are our words, gestures, messages and lives prophetic today, in the Church and in the world? Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO, Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2008 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B is now available in book form. You can order your copy of “Words Made Flesh: Volume 2, Year B” from the website of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Publications Service.
Benedict XVI celebrated Vespers on January 25 to mark both the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul and the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The liturgy, which was attended by representatives of various Christian denominations, took place at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls. The video of his homily is above, while, past the break, you can listen to the introduction to the liturgy by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Last Monday, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers marched in Washington for the 39th March for Life. Despite the January weather, this is consistently one of the largest annual protests in Washington. Even though the title of the protest is “for life” it is very clear that this event is specifically an anti-abortion event. The March has been held every year since 1974, a year after the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. But if we are to be called a people of life, we need to have a consistent ethic of life. Don’t get me wrong, we must protest abortion, but if we are going to march for life, we need to do so also for those on death row, the elderly and the disabled. This is why I think it was significant that for the Cardinal O’Connor Conference, one of the March for Life events, which took place at Georgetown University on Sunday, the keynote address focused on the dignity of the disabled. Keynote speaker, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia said that an 80 percent abortion rate of those with disabilities shows the need to restore a fundamental respect for human dignity in America: “These children with disabilities are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us. They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our humanity.” I was moved when I read this. How many people with disabilities do I know? Many of them are my friends. But I am too familiar with stories about doctors who push pregnant women to test for Down syndrome. Why? So they can terminate their pregnancies? But this is not reported in any studies: In Canada, 9 out of 10 pregnancies that test positive for Down Syndrome are terminated. This happens despite the fact that the amniocentesis test is very often unreliable. Just last week, here in Canada there were reports that another kind of selective abortions are taking place. What happens is that, especially among certain ethnic communities, female fetuses are commonly aborted because of a preference for sons. Rajendra Kale, editor-in-chief of the Canadian Medical Journal said in his editorial piece, that even though this practice is by no means widespread, it is carried out by some immigrants to Canada. He explains that Canadian research has suggested that sex selection is occurring in Canada in certain groups when families have had girls and are seeking a son. What I find amazing is that there are people in this country that claim that there is a majority who consider the access to abortion to be a basic human right. It is these same people who are now shocked at the fact that this very “right” is being used to target women by killing them in the womb. Perhaps those who are shocked by this news will join the latest pro-life campaign in Ontario that calls on the province’s elected officials to defund abortion. A recent poll prepared for The Campaign Life Coalition shows that more than 60% of Ontarians oppose the estimated yearly $30-50 million spent on elective abortions that are not medically necessary. For more information on this campaign, visit Campaign Life Coalition. In his talk, Archbishop Chaput focused on children with Down syndrome. He stated that in the U.S. more than 80 percent of the unborn babies who are diagnosed with Down’s are killed prenatally: “They’re killed because of a flaw in one of their chromosomes – a flaw that’s neither fatal nor contagious, but merely undesirable.” The Archbishop continued: “The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is never between some imaginary perfection or imperfection. None of us is perfect. No child is perfect. The real choice in accepting or rejecting a child with special needs is between love and unlove; between courage and cowardice; between trust and fear […]And that’s the choice we face as a society in deciding which human lives we will treat as valuable, and which we will not.” And isn’t that what the whole pro-life argument is about? It is not up to me to decide which lives are valuable and which are not. Our value as human beings is not determined by our gender, level of ability, age, stage of development, nor by our actions, criminal behaviour, productivity or level of contribution to society. Our value is determined by our ability to love and to be loved by God. And we must not be afraid to share that with others. “Fear is beneath your dignity as sons and daughters of the God of life,” said Archbishop Chaput: “Never give up the struggle that the March for Life embodies,” he added. “Your pro-life witness gives glory to God.” - Photo credit: CNS photo/Peter Lockley