“O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord, do not harden your hearts!”

by May Tam

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
“A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’
And the LORD said to me, ‘This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
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.’”

1 Corinthians 7:32-35

I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband.
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Mark 1:21-28

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said,
“Quiet! Come out of him!”
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another,
“What is this?
A new teaching with authority.
He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

“O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord, do not harden your hearts!”
May Tam


Perhaps it would not be too wrong to say that one of the things that undergoes depletion over the ages is the submission to “authority”. Challenge to the origin of established authority always creates tension among people in different classes. Today, needless to say, under the shield of human rights and freedom (which are very often being misused), this challenge continues its way to parents at home, to teachers in the classrooms, to the Catholic Church in her teachings and ultimately, to the Christian faith in God.

Yet in today’s readings, we are reminded that there is a real authority that is beyond our earthly nature. It is God’s absolute authority that needs no human legitimacy for it is not subject to the will of the people.Without the help of the inspired author, we may presently have difficulty to picture this kind of authority.The authority of God was so frightening to the Israelites that they wanted to avoid any direct encounter with Him(Deut. 18:16). This authority commanded the chosen prophet to die if he should speak not of God’s words. This authority was emanated in the person of Jesus.People were amazed not because of what Jesus preached but of the way He taught. His authority demanded their attention and compelled them to listen. This authority could even drive out unclean spirits and subdue them. The effect was the same----astonishment and alarm on the people.

St. Paul knew well of this authority of God. In his letter to the Philippians (2:10), this authority commands every knee that is in heaven, on earth and under the earthto bend even at the name of Jesus. This authority made St. Paul pleadwith us to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). It is this authority too that allows us to appreciate the great mercy and patience of God on sinners. Though God has authority over all things and demands full responsibility from the prophet in carrying out His commands, to those who hear God's word but do not heed (yet),He does not execute judgment or punishment on them instantly. Instead His mercy allows them time to turn back to Him(Deut 18:19).

“O that today you would listen to the voice of the Lord, do not harden your hearts” (Responsorial Psalm Response, Psalm 95), what an earnest cry appealing to the heart of every sinner! Let us not waste God’s mercy while He still gives us time. Let us not challenge His authority for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Psalms 111:10).

Spiritual Talk
Fr. Anthony Ho
This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B), and Fr. Anthony Ho explains to us the story of Jesus exorcising demons in the synagogue from the Gospel of Mark. Demons are fallen angels who have rejected God as a result of envy. Teresa of Avila teaches us to use different methods in defending ourselves from the attacks and temptations of the devil.
Listen >