Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 28, 2018

January 28, 2018

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January 28, 2018

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Maria

Cimperman, RSCJ

 “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

What would it take?

To believe?

To change your life?

To risk for the sake of the Good News?

In today’s Gospel we hear that Jesus taught in the synagogue and the people were astonished, amazed.

People saw the difference between the scribes and Jesus. Something was authentic, clear, true. Speaking with authority wasn’t about external power but an internal resonance, depth – Jesus knew something deep down. When you hear truth, you know it. They were meeting Truth, in Love.

Jesus also healed – he exorcised a demon here.

He healed the vulnerable among them.  The dark spirit recognized him as the Holy One of God, and saw something would change as a result. It did!

Jesus’ fame spread throughout the land – and people were amazed.

But is that enough? To be amazed? Must it not also lead us somewhere?

Years ago, when I was between doctoral coursework and my dissertation, I had the privilege of a summer in Ghana, West Africa with Dr. David Abdulai and his family. Dr. Abdulai was a Ghanaian physician working in Tamale, in the western region of the country, a place without many resources and certainly not many doctors. His story was amazing. As I remember it, he was a street kid when some Catholic sisters encountered him and helped him with his education. He eventually went to medical school and then further training in Europe.

He returned to Ghana and had a plum position as a doctor for Germans working in the capital, Accra. He married a wonderful woman who was a nurse.

Their faith was important to them, and they regularly prayed together. At one point their prayer led them to discern a call to the margins where health care was harder to come by. They went to Tamale, the other side of the country, and they started Shekinah Clinic, a free clinic.

People traveled from all over, walking hours upon hours to line up for care. At one point, seeing the need, Dr. Abdulai asked each of the surrounding villages to build a hut for people to stay in while they were awaiting treatment on the clinic grounds. The huts were open to any and all in need. He started to build community. He built bridges between traditional medicine healers and more Westernized medicine– because each had something important to offer. 

I was in awe. 

One day as we were driving to a gathering, I said, “What you are doing is amazing, Dr. Abdulai! Why are others not doing more of this?”

His answer: 

“Exactly because of what you said. You say this is amazing. This is not amazing. This is simply the Gospel.” He followed with, “If you say this is amazing, then often enough you don’t have to do it. But it’s the Gospel. And we must.”

What does it take?

Yes, some simply saw and were amazed.

Some responded.

Our Gospel today is a wonderful ‘in-between’ passage, because just a few lines earlier in Mark we read of the call of the disciples.  They saw, they heard Jesus’ call, and they followed.

And immediately after (today’s passage) Jesus taught in the synagogue and exorcised the demon. Jesus went with Peter to the house of Peter’s mother-in law, who was sick. Jesus healed her. And then she served. Service was her natural response. By the end of that evening we hear that the whole/entire town came to the door  - and Jesus healed.

We too are in an ‘in-between’ time.  We are between the beginning of the New Year and the beginning of Lent. Both are times that invite us to growth. And Jesus is eager to encounter us. 

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

 

Jesus desires to encounter us, right here and now, asking for more than amazement. As Pope Francis so beautifully writes in The Joy of the Gospel:  “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them”(#3).

What follows this?  Missionary discipleship.

 

In this ‘in-between time’ and in the midst of much happening in our nation and world today, a question asked of us is

“Where does the Gospel needs to be preached today – whether as a resistance to wrongs and evil spirits or in support and creation of right and good in our part of the world today?”

Let’s not simply be amazed. Let’s act also.

What would it take?

To really believe? To act?

To ever more pattern your life on his life?

To be the Good News  to all we meet.

In between our readings the psalm response for this Sunday is: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

That’s the start. Openness to encounter.

Pray to be open(ed). God is eager, present.

What will move?

Everything -- from how you see others and creation to how you respond to needs and longings. 

“If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.”

It will take you beyond amazement - to proclaiming by our words and deeds, the Good News that overcomes evil spirits, heals and creates anew.

And so, shall we go? Together.

Yes, together, with the Risen Christ, we go!

Amen!

First Reading

Dt 18:15-20

PSALM

Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9

Second Reading

1 Cor 7:32-35

GOSPEL

Mk 1:21-28
Read texts at usccb.org

Maria Cimperman, RSCJ

Maria Cimperman is a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ). She serves as Associate Professor of Theological Ethics and the Director of the Center for the Study of Consecrated Life at Catholic Theological Union (Chicago). Her work is at the intersection of moral theology, social ethics and spirituality.

Love of God and love of neighbor converge in the desire to respond to the cries of the people and the cries of the earth – the wounded heart of humanity and earth where God already is and where God is calling us.

Maria is passionate about creating communities of hope on a global scale, linking across religious families and with all in common cause for the transformation of the world for a more just, merciful and loving local and global community.  

She is writing a book on Religious Life For the 21st Century. Additional research and writing interest include:  peacebuilding and reconciliation; moral imagination and the arts; communal discernment.  Maria presents both nationally and internationally and finds it a grace to engage with people on conversations of consequence. She enjoys immersing in other cultures to see, hear and imagine the new emerging.

 

More:

Social Analysis for the 21st Century: How Faith Becomes Action (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2015) [book];

“Hope Encounters: Consecrated Life for Our Times” Origins (Vol 45 (2) May 14, 2015 pp19-26 – Also found online at: file:///Users/mariacimperman/Downloads/1185-Article%20Text-5715-1-10-20150920.pdf  [article]

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