Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jan 27, 2021 | Gospel Reflections


Mark 1: 21-28 – Sister Jo Threlfall, SNDdeN

The experience of the Pandemic in the past year has probably given us the time to stop and reflect on life and events that have changed our world. It has also given us the opportunity to do some self-reflection. Today’s Gospel gives us an opportunity to relate this message to life today.

We meet Jesus and his disciples arriving in the synagogue in Capernaum, after having spent time socializing and visiting people. They sit in this quiet cool space to relax and listen to Jesus preaching and giving them guidance- “he taught them with authority”. His words were not the empty words of the scribes who spoke to impress and present their own convincing arguments. They would often be using their powerful position to give instructions and put fear into people. Jesus was speaking from His Heart -the word of God made flesh, offering loving guidance, support and encouragement to enable them to live in peace and harmony. The listeners were attentive and opened their hearts to hear the Word of God.

The quiet listening atmosphere was shattered when a man possessed by an unclean spirit shouted at Jesus, wanting to silence his message. Today we can be bombarded by great powerful, selfish orators who wish to promote their own message through forceful words so as to silence and overpower others. There are the voices of evil spirits and demons all around us wanting to use their power to destroy, oppress.

However there are still great prophets among us, people of faith and love (Galatians 5:6), who speak with authority. We see this in the recent Papal Encyclicals and messages of Pope Francis and other spiritual writers. We also hear the voices of wisdom from the women and men of great faith and hope living among us. It is important that these voices of wisdom and integrity reach beyond the synagogue, church or mosque.

It is only in proclaiming God’s Good News that we will overcome evil. Let us pray that we may grow in faith and trust in God’s Word. May we become faithful, compassionate, loving and caring of all whom we meet without preference for anyone, always accepting and welcoming strangers. This is more powerful than any negative, angry, racist or exploitative approach. In this way we will speak with the authority of Christ and others may recognise that “Here is a teaching that is new and with authority behind it”.

Let us remember the words of Henri Nouwen –“Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quietly leave us.”

Let us pray
Jesus your Word is power and life; may we never doubt your love and mercy and the power of your Word that sets us free and brings healing and life to body, mind, heart and spirit. Amen


Mark 1: 21-28

They went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the sabbath came Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted. “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.” But Jesus said sharply, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him.

The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. “Here is a teaching that is new” they said “and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.” And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
The Gospel of the Lord


Meet Sister Jo Threlfall, SNDdeN

Jo Threlfall entered Notre Dame in 1963 having been educated in different parts of the country by five different religious congregations. The attraction of St. Julie’s charism of simplicity, love and concern for the education of women and girls was always very strong along with her sense of justice. She spent ten years teaching in primary and middle schools in England before going to Nigeria where she spent time teaching in primary and secondary schools. She later worked with women’s development programmes. This was really challenging but enjoyable and rewarding work. There were only 12 sisters from the British Province when she arrived in 1977 and by the time she left in 1997 there were over 50 sisters, 6 of whom were expatriates. Then she spent two years in Zimbabwe in the late 1990’s co-ordinating women’s development programmes reaching women in the rural areas across the country, where she experienced the contrast between the wealth or the towns and the dire poverty of the women and children in the rural areas. Often the men went to the towns for work. After returning to the UK in 1999, she helped in the Africa Administration section of Cafod and taught English at the Refugee Council. After some pastoral work in Brixton Prison she continued English teaching at the Cardinal Hume Centre in London. Now she has added to her ministry part time work with the ecumenical chaplaincy team at Gatwick Airport. She is active in the local justice and peace group and particularly interested in trafficking of women and children.