Gospel Reflections

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mark 1:21-28

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Sharon McMillan

Published: February 01, 2015

In the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus makes himself at home. It is Sabbath morning and he gathers with the community for prayer. He begins to teach. We question: Was he invited or did he just begin to teach after the readings? All who hear him recognize intuitively that he speaks with authority; he speaks with God's voice. This is teaching so direct and clear, so compelling and attractive that the people are literally "stunned," astounded that God's prophet should come to dwell in their own synagogue, in their own town. Even before the miracle of the cure, there is the miracle of the word. Perhaps each is thinking: "God is speaking to me, and to us, through this man."

It is so tremendous that the people recognize that this is someone through whom God is addressing them. They recognize genuine "authority" when they hear it. No one has to stop and point it out; no one has to take a poll and come to consensus. They are hearing God's voice, and it touches them so deeply that they spontaneously know they are listening to the truth. God is in their midst; God's promises are true. Jesus, sitting among them, is the future prophet Moses foretells in today's First Reading: one with God's own words in his mouth.

The people of Capernaum were blessed not only to listen to Jesus' teaching but to truly "hear" it. St. Mark tells us they were astounded and amazed, especially after the authenticity of his teaching is confirmed by his healing power. Perhaps that is the sequence of things in the human heart: hearing then healing. My favorite line in today's Psalm 95 reads "Oh, that today you would hear his voice; harden not your hearts." Truly hear God's voice in an elder's wisdom, a child's cry, a people's struggle, a phrase in Scripture, a line in a song, in a new friendship, in forgiveness of an old sin. Hear God's voice and do not turn away in hardness of heart. Let the word take root; do not stifle the Spirit; remain open to the next step...and to the next.

During my second year of Formation as a Sister of Notre Dame, a Sister from Massachusetts came to live with us out in California: Sister Helen Cornelia Lyons who had been in leadership in her province. She was on sabbatical and by God's grace, she chose to spend it with us. She was invited to share with the novices some of her experiences of prayer. Now, 39 years later, I remember it all! She spoke "with authority," with a prophet's clear and convincing voice, with tenderness and truthfulness. Did we dare believe her that God was so good? We did!

Oh, that today we would all hear God's voice that comes to us in a thousand ways and not harden our hearts, but take the risk of walking forward into the transformation and healing to which we are led in hearing God.


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