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This Sunday's Programme

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4th Sunday Year B

Sunday 28th January 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mk 1: 21-28

After calling his first disciples, Jesus went to Capernaum, and went, as he usually did on the Sabbath, to the synagogue. There he taught. The people were awed with amazement at his teaching for he taught as a person with authority, not like their usual teachers of religion, the scribes.

In the synagogue, there was a man with a destructive spirit, a demon, in him. This demon started yelling out: ‘Ah! What are you about? Leave us alone, Jesus of Nazareth! You’ve come to destroy us but we know who you are, the Holy One of God!’ Jesus reproved the demon: ‘Shut up and get out of him!’ The demon threw the man into convulsions then came out of him screaming. The people were stunned and were asking each other, ‘What is this? This really is something new: a person whose teaching has force behind it. This man gives orders to demons and they obey him!’ Straightaway, his reputation spread around the whole countryside of Galilee.

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 94:1-2, 6-9
Go, jubilant before our God,
shouting to the rock of our salvation.
Come into God’s presence full of thanks,
loudly singing, full of joy.

Come worship before God,
bowing down before our Maker.
Yes, he it is who made us.
We are like sheep in his pasture,
being led by his own hand.
Listen to the sound of his voice!

Don’t be belligerent towards God
as they were at Meribah
or tempted as happened at Massah.
Your forbears tested and tried me
even though they saw my works.

 

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, your son Jesus came to wrest us from the power of evil and sin. May we listen to him and open our lives and hearts to his transforming Spirit. May his Good News be the authority which we leads our lives. We ask this in his name, confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

Mark begins his presentation of the ministry of Jesus with a ‘typical’ day which we hear in this Sunday and next Sunday’s Gospel readings. It is a long day and three elements stand out: Jesus’ teaching authority, his power over the demons and illness and the amazement of the crowds.

Surprisingly, Jesus’ confrontation with evil does not begin out with the ‘lowlifes’ of his society but rather within the heart of respectability in the Sabbath service at the synagogue. Note, unlike Matthew and Luke, Jesus is not invited to speak, he steps up to the role – his time has come. The people are amazed at the way he opens the Scriptures and we are given an example of what his teaching does – it draws out evil that has been hidden within the heart of a ‘good’ person. Typical of the arrogance of evil, the demon within the man challenges Jesus. Jesus takes up the challenge and without even touching the man casts the demon out. In words that foreshadow Mark’s description of the death of Jesus at the end of the Gospel we are told of the cost to the man: his distress is genuine, he feels rent in two. But like a master surgeon, Jesus cleaves the man open, only to make him whole. This is true authority. No wonder the people are astounded and amazed.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

Being an authority like Jesus.

So what makes for authority? The capacity to look into a person’s heart and make an effective difference to his or her life. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus’ authority is recognised as superior to that of the scribes. These men had position, influence and knowledge but that didn’t give them authority. Playing on the word, I like to think of an authority as one who can author life in another. To do that an authority needs three things:
1) a respect for the other,
2) a belief and hope in the other’s growth,
3) a knowledge of what to say or do to help the other to grow.

Did you notice that this is all about ‘the other’ not about the person in authority? We can see why Jesus says elsewhere that the one in authority is the one who serves, the one who is on the floor washing the dirt from the other’s feet. This is not serving by being busy, working hard for others, demanding respect and privileges. This is service shaped by the needs of the other and how he or she can effectively be served.

Each and every one of us is called to offer authority at times in our lives. Position has little to do with it. What is central is to offer the love of Jesus to those in need and give them hope that their lives will improve.

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

What’s your demon?

My father was a gambler – or so I have been told. Mum used to say, ‘Your father’s a gambler, that’s why he took up mushroom farming.’ It was only after he died that I learnt the story. He came from a poor family and having gotten a scholarship to university, he lost a lot of that money on the horses. Well, through sheer hard work he was able to stay at Uni but he never bet on the horses again. Early in life, he faced a demon squarely and judged how weak he was. And he was the better man for it.

We each and all have demons. Part of the genius of the 12 step programs is to get people to face them squarely. Our demons don’t have to be as obvious as addiction to alcohol, gambling or drugs. Anything that undermines the growth of life and love within us is a ‘demon’. The man Jesus cured in this Gospel was not a vicious low life. This was a respectable man who attended synagogue! So what was his demon – resentment, concern for respectability, fear of what others think? We need to face our demons because it is then that we will be open to the salvation that Jesus offers: life to the full. If our lives seem less than full, we need to come before Jesus and ask for the healing that he so wants to give us.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

–  In this watercolour by James Tissot all much have appeared very orderly till Jesus and the demon confront each other.  Then pandemonium breaks out!

Jesus drives out a demon from the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (15th Century) by the Limbourg brothers.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

Jesus impressed the people because he spoke with authority.  This was not having power over people but rather working to bring forth the fullness of life from within them.  Each of us can exercise authority in our lives, even in the smallest of encounters.  As you go through this week, mull on what you can say and do to bring forth life in the people that you encounter.  When you have mulled on what you could do, put it into action.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

Jesus showed his authority by confronting the evil in peoples’ lives and bringing them healing. When you are at rest in the God’s love, consider the places in your heart that seem to be enmeshed in darkness, the attitudes and actions about which you are ashamed. Bring them before Jesus and ask for his love to touch that area of your life. Ask him what form he would like your healing to take. Under the guidance of the Spirit ask how he would like you to be free. Open your heart, your mind and your life to his healing.

Rest in the love of your God.