Sunday, 1/31/2021, Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The LORD Does Not Send False Prophets
First Reading Commentary: Deuteronomy 18:15-20
In today’s first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses relates the LORD’s promise to raise up someone who the Israelites will listen to as they had requested. This person would be an Israelite himself and would speak the words that the LORD put into his mouth.
Who was this person that the LORD promised to send? On the surface, it is obvious that the LORD is promising to send the Son and that is very true. But before I talk about that, we have to take a look at the last line in this reading where the LORD says, “But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak, or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.”
This statement from the LORD tells us that He was not limiting His promise to just sending the Son. The LORD was talking about all of the prophets who would come in His name and He is giving a very profound warning to anyone who would be a false prophet.
Who are false prophets? These are my opinions of, who false prophets are. Anyone who knows that God is the Creator of all things but refuses to accept that fact as they worship and/or proclaim a different God or proclaim that there is no God is a false prophet. Anyone who knows that God is a Trinity but chooses to profess their faith in a different way while proclaiming to others that they should do the same is a false prophet. Anyone who knows the Word of God and proclaims that Word while also telling people that it is ok to commit acts against God is a false prophet. Sadly, an example of this would be someone who promotes abortion or even contraception for the sole purpose of preventing human life. Anyone who proclaims the Word for the sake of their own financial and material gain is also a false prophet. I call these people religious pimps.
Notice that all four of my definitions; describe someone who is in the know. A person who has never been taught or been exposed to the Word does not know the Word and does not know any better. As baptized Christians, we do know better and we are called to evangelize those people who do not.
This calls to mind my position on faith and religion. Faith is one of the fruits and virtues of the Holy Spirit. As such, faith comes from God and exists in all of us. We all believe in something. Religion is a personal choice. It is a product of our free will which is another gift from God. It is, therefore, our God given right to profess our faith as we choose. We do not have to belong to any one religion to go to heaven.
I am Catholic and I know that there are Catholics who will not make it to heaven and there are Non-Catholics who will make it to heaven. The religion is not as important as the faith. Never mind what a person says. A person’s heart is filled with faith in God or it is not regardless of the religion meaning that a person exercises their faith, or they reject it. God knows exactly what is in the heart of each and every one of us.
I cannot say that a Non-Catholic preacher is a false prophet, but I can say that any preacher who condones any act which is contrary to respecting and protecting the sanctity of all human life is a false prophet. The Commandment says, “Thou shall not kill.” Emphasis: on the period. God did not leave room for exceptions.
I could say more about false prophets, but this reading is more about who the LORD was promising to send. The LORD was promising to send Isaiah, Samuel, Jeremiah and all of the other great prophets. He was also promising David who would be the first Messianic King. But above all, the LORD was promising to send His Son.
The Israelites wanted a human king and Christ is one hundred percent human as well as one hundred percent divine. The LORD promised to send someone who would be of the Israelites own kin. As a descendant of David, Christ was of, their own kin. The LORD promised to put His own words into the mouth of the one who He would send. Christ said Himself that He said and did as the Father commanded.
Think about that. It could be no other way because God is a Trinity. If you are a faith-filled Christian, you know and believe this. When one person of the Trinity acts, all three act and when one speaks; all three speak. Therefore, whenever the Son spoke, so did the Father.
Because the LORD was promising to send His Son, today’s reading from Deuteronomy is considered to be a Messianic prophecy and one of the messages for us in this prophecy is that God does not send false prophets.
Don’t Be Distracted
Second Reading Commentary: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Paul says that an unmarried man or an unmarried woman is anxious about things of the Lord. But a married man or woman is anxious about things of the world and pleasing their spouse.
This sounds like an attack on marriage. Is it wrong to marry? Of course not! Matrimony is a sacred sacrament and God always intended for a man and a woman to be together. The sole purpose for God creating Eve was so that man would not be alone and so that man and woman could be together.
So, what is Paul really telling us today? There are two messages that immediately come to my mind in this part of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. First, God should be the most important thing in our lives. Nothing and no one should ever come before God. The order of our priorities should be God, then family then work then everything else. When we get these priorities out of order, our lives become a mess. Paul is telling us not to make that mistake.
The second message is more complicated and the subject of much debate as it points to the reason why priests, nuns and brothers in the Catholic Church do not marry. I am not taking a stand one way or the other in this commentary. I simply want to point out one of the reasons for the practice.
There is nothing in Scripture that says that a priest cannot marry. But when a person consecrates their lives to becoming a religious or a priest, they take a vow of celibacy. That vow becomes a covenant (contract) between themselves and God. If a priest finds it difficult to carry out his duties as a priest because of family matters, there is a problem. That priest may find it necessary to leave the priesthood or divorce his wife. Obviously, the Church does not want either of these two events to occur and therefore does not want to create a situation where it might.
No matter what your position is on this matter, the bottom line to Paul’s message today is: Do not become distracted from making God first in your life.
They Were Amazed, We Should Be in Awe
Gospel Commentary: Mark 1:21-28
Jesus went to Capernaum and taught in the synagogues on the Sabbath. Why do some people feel that they do not need to go to church? I commented on this before. Going to the synagogue for a Jew or going to the mosque for a Muslim is the same thing as going to church is for a Christian. Christ was born a Jew, lived His life as a Jew, practiced His faith on earth as a Jew and died a Jew. He is the second person of the Trinity and if going to the synagogue was an important thing for Him, then, we should follow His lead and example by going to church. He would not have spent so much time there Himself if going to His place of worship were not important and if He did not mean for us to continue the tradition of worshipping together. I cannot understand why anyone would argue against this point.
The people in Capernaum were astonished by the teachings of Jesus because He spoke with authority. It is truly amazing to me that a stranger will listen to you but a close friend or relative will not only refuse to listen; they may very well ridicule you. The people in Capernaum were astonished because they recognized the authority in the way that Jesus spoke and that was because they were listening.
There was a man in the synagogue who, was possessed by a demon who chastised Jesus saying, “What have you to do with us—the Holy One of God!” The devil attacked Jesus and this is not the only time. If the devil is so daring and determined in his quest to bring about destruction that he would publicly challenge Jesus, then the devil will not hesitate to come after us. This is why we must be ever vigilant, keep the faith and pray. Doing these things; are not as impossible as they may seem if we take Paul's advice of keeping God number one in our lives.
Jesus said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” The demon convulsed the man and came out of him. The people were amazed at the fact that Jesus had such authority and power that he commanded spirits and the news of Jesus spread everywhere.
Over and over again throughout Jesus’ ministry we are told that the people were amazed or astonished. The amazement and astonishment of the people in Capernaum came from their questioning what it was about His word that gave Jesus such power which means that they did not know or had not accepted who Jesus was. But in time, Jesus would make disciples everywhere He went.
I wonder how many of the people in Nazareth changed their minds about Jesus after the news of this and other events of Jesus’s mighty works reached them. For us, this should be just another one of countless reasons why we should have complete awe at God’s power which is the gift of fear of the Lord. Since it is given to us, we should use it and if we do, our awe and wonder will strengthen our faith.