Fourth  Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Fourth  Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B

Jan 31, 2024 | Reflections

Last Sunday’s readings remind us of the importance of the Gospel, because it is the truth. We need the truth, in order to pursue what is truly good in life and not illusions. It is the truth that sets us free.

In the first reading Moses is 120 years of age and is about to die. He promises the Israelites a prophet who will be sent to teach them the fullness of truth. This promise will be fulfilled in Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

St Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians talks about the freedom of those who are unmarried and how they can devote themselves to the Lord’s affairs. For example, in the Holy Priesthood, celibacy provides greater internal freedom and external flexibility. 

Bear the weight of Truth

St Francis de Sales talks of this. One elderly Protestant lady had been receiving instruction from him for a long time when he was Bishop of Geneva in Switzerland. She repeatedly entered into extended arguments with the patient Bishop. One day she solemnly proclaimed that her only remaining difficulty was the celibacy of the Catholic clergy. Calmly, St Francis explained that a celibate Priest reflects Christ’s total love for the Church, and is also more available to serve the people. Then he paused and added with a sly smile: For instance, madam, you will readily understand that if I had a wife and children to take care of, I would be unable to talk with you so often about your religious difficulties. A short time later the lady was received into the Catholic Church.

In Sunday’s Gospel, the crowds see something different in Jesus. His words have a weight in them, which they didn’t find in those of the Scribes. They bear the weight of truth, which speak to the hearts of the hearers and call them to conversion. In the Synagogue there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit and the demon recognized Jesus as the Holy one of God, the Son of God. Demons have a kind of supernatural knowledge. But Jesus came to free souls from slavery to the devil and sin and He shows his power over demons by casting it out of the man.

In certain cases, fallen angels, can manage to exercise influence on material things and also on a person’s body, which is why we speak of possession by the devil. The demons can resort to this extreme to assert superiority, because they have a higher nature, being pure spirit. The possessed usually lose dominion over themselves, their movements and their words.

There are many hooks that the devil uses to draw people into his net. For example, horoscopes, Ouija boards, palm reading, tea leaves and crystals. These are the first steps towards a deeper contact with evil spirits through things like wicca, neo-paganism, new age movement, white and black magic, spiritism and even satanism. Dabbling in the occult is playing with fire and is a contradiction to friendship with Christ.

Through mortal sin, many become subject to the slavery of the devil and separate themselves from the Kingdom of God. Often, they then become instruments of evil in the world. We could think of people such as Adolf Hitler and Stalin as two examples, but of course there are many others in the world today. 

I was attending a Priests’ Retreat some years ago and an elderly Priest shared about a recent experience. ` people brought a woman to him to pray over. He had often prayer over people before.  But suddenly, the woman started speaking in a guttural male voice, angrily at the Priest. Although quite shocked at this, the Priest continued to pray over the woman. I’m not sure of the outcome but I believe he would have recommended that her friends take her to the Archbishop to arrange for an exorcism for the poor woman.

These days around the world exorcists can’t keep up with the demand for exorcisms. This is because when people lose the Faith, there is a vacuum in their lives which they try to fill up and often end up dabbling in the occult which can lead to possession. Usually there is serious sin as well. Mortal sin in the greatest misfortune that can befall a Christian. Sin brings into the world a radical disorder which separates a person from their Creator and because people lose their inner peace, they create disharmony with family, communities and society in general.

What are we to do then to grow spiritually and to help others? Firstly, let’s set our hearts on God. The Blessed Trinity dwells in inaccessible light, all pure, all virginal. One day we will come before this light for judgement. There are three things we can do in the meantime:

1.            Stay close to Christ, through prayer, Holy Mass and Eucharistic Adoration and study the Catechism. Pray also for the conversion of sinners.

2.            Stay close to the truth and guard what goes into our minds. The devil’s main weapon is deception. He manipulates our selfish tendencies and spreads half-truths.

3.            Stay close to our Heavenly Mother, through faithful recitation of the Holy Rosary. She will crush the head of the ancient serpent, with her heal, which represents us as devotees. Our Lady has more love than all people combined. She teaches us littleness and how to die to our own selfish will, so we can then enter into the Divine Will. She will also be our greatest help and advocate when we come one day before Jesus, the judge of the living and the dead.

To become holy, we must first desire it. Let’s ask Our Lady, Queen of the Divine Will to pray for us!