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Reflection on the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on January 28, 2024, by Mary Swain SL

Deuteronomy 18:15-20, Mark 1:21-28

Jesus is in Capernaum. It is early in his public life. Things go well. In Mark’s Gospel before the section we just heard, Jesus had met Simon and Andrew, then James and John. He had asked them to come with him. They had dropped everything and followed him. Today an unclean spirit in someone shouts out in the middle of Jesus’ teaching.  Jesus is confident and undaunted. The people are astonished and amazed. “What is this?” they ask.  

Jesus taught as one having authority. He continued to act that way, even when the going got rough. Later on, it is the people in Capernaum, so praising of him now, who do not like what he is saying and try to throw him over the nearby cliff. (There is something so present-day about the anger of those people.)

As Christians we have responded to the call of Jesus, yet Gospel stories like this are frightening. How can we do what Jesus would do, this Jesus who is so successful, who knows just what to say and everyone listens?

A part of responding to that call is to know ourselves as Jesus knows himself. Jesus knows who he is. Jesus knows that he is beloved of God. At his baptism he experienced himself as loved by God, deeply, intimately. He came to realize that his life at its deepest core was completely one with the life of God. That is why Jesus could speak with authority. To speak with authority is to act in freedom. Jesus is free of external expectations. He is not particularly anxious about what others think.

Authority, as we know, comes from the Latin word that means to create, to increase, to make grow. On the next two Sundays we will listen to Mark tell us of Jesus’ activity. We wonder if Jesus ever sleeps. We will find him healing those who are sick, driving out demons or curing a leper. Jesus is acting with authority: He is creating life where life was lacking; he is empowering each of these people to a greater fullness of life. At the same time, he is letting them know who they are: beloved of God. He treats each one as such. He knows that each person at her or his deepest core is completely one with the life of God. If we are to do as Jesus did, we must believe that of ourselves and of each person in our life.


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.