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4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

A few years ago, I went out for a meal with a few priests, and whilst we

were waiting for a table, a Traveller came along, who was an evangelical

Protestant, and he tried to convert us. He didn’t succeed, of course,

although he did manage to rather irritate one of the priests in our group.

Somehow it happened that when our table was ready, the other priests

moved off first and I was the last one to remain there talking to him. He

advised me to go and find a wife, which, of course, I ignored.


Around the same time, give a year or two, I was walking back to the

presbytery, and I encountered a young man who was a Muslim, and he

quoted today’s first reading: “Your God will raise up for you a prophet

like myself … to him you must listen”. “Who do you think that prophet

might be?”, he asked me. His plan didn’t work, because I said that first, it

relates to Joshua, who took over the role of Moses after his death, and also

that it is a prophecy of Christ, who is, if you like, the greatest of all

prophets, although we know that He is more than just that, being God in

the flesh.


These encounters, though, raise the question of whom we listen to and

what kind of authority they have. In the Gospel, the people recognise that

Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ knew what He was speaking about,

unlike their scribes. And then there is the incident with Him casting out

the unclean spirit, showing even further the authority that He had. The

demon, or demons, seem to make empty boasting and threats. We know

who You are and you’re wasting your time taking us on. Whether it was

through nervousness as well as pride, I don’t know. But they are no match

for Him. The ministry of exorcism still continues in the Catholic Church

today, but there is the need to discern who is genuine and what the cause or

causes are. A priest some years ago told me that he was watching The

Exorcist film with his sibling’s children and part-way through the film he

said to them: “Well, that’s the first mistake he’s making: trying to

exorcise someone without having other people to hold the person down”.

At which point his nieces and nephews said: “What? You know about

these things?” I know of another priest who was using prayers of

deliverance with someone who had been involved in certain occultic

practices, and when he got to a certain prayer in his book, there was a

definite reaction. The person was delivered and then began to take the

Catholic faith very seriously.


If we keep on working our way through the readings, we get to the

response to today’s psalm: “O that today you would listen to his voice!

Harden not your hearts”. Belief in the Lord leads to change of life, and

being resistant to change, or conversion as it’s more properly called, can

mean that people harden their hearts and walk away.


Of course, a famous time when people walk away is in John chapter six.

The people have seen Christ multiply the food to feed the five thousand,

and later on He tells them not to work for food which cannot last, but for

the food which endures to eternal life. He speaks to them of the Eucharist,

and the people all walk away, saying “This is intolerable language. How

could anyone accept it?” They were prepared to walk so far with the Lord,

but no further.


That leads us to the second reading, where St Paul speaks of the benefits of

celibacy. Not all are called to that state, of course, but he makes the point

that it is a particularly appropriate state in order to give your undivided

attention to the Lord. So putting two and two together, we can say that it

make sense for monks, nuns, sisters, brothers and even priests to be

celibate, and for some lay people too, that is their calling. I had someone

ask me once about this, because he was considering becoming a journalist,

and he realised that if he was off all over the world reporting, he wouldn’t

get much chance to settle down with a wife and have a family.


Whom do we trust, and where do we recognise authority? When we place

ourselves in the hands of the Lord, we give everything totally over to Him.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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