Homily – January 2018

Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Mark 1:21-28

Returning from our holidays at the beginning of 2018, the Church offers us great wisdom and hope at the beginning of this New Year.

The wisdom of the second reading from St Paul to the Church at Corinth is a word that we can all take on afresh today. He says to his people, and I say also to you as your Archbishop, “I would like to see you free from all worry…and that you give your undivided attention to the Lord.”

I think the two are linked. The beginning of any new year brings with it all sorts of concerns of the issues that surround us this year. But the Lord calls us not to worry. This doesn’t mean that we have concerns and that we are preoccupied with matters of urgency, but that’s quite different from worrying about these matters. The key is in giving “undivided attention to the Lord.” In other words the battle of life is not our own. Jesus is the great burden-bearer. He leads us in the crosses that await us. So let us at the beginning of this year give undivided attention and focus on Jesus and place him at the centre of all our concerns and hopes.

The first reading gives us great wisdom on how to begin this “undivided attention” to the Lord.

The word from Moses to his people is that we “must listen”. Later on Moses says, “The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it.” In other words if we do not listen to the Lord we rely only on our personal resources and that will not be enough for the battle of life.

The word “listen” is a key Biblical word.

As we welcome particularly the Filipino community at this Mass today and share with them the joy in their cultural and religious festival of “The Little Jesus”, I recall a Filipino elderly lady once saying to me how you can jumble up certain words of the Bible and produce another word that is very illuminating.

Such is the case with the word “listen”. If you jumble up the word “listen” you end up with the word “silent”. What does listening mean? It means being silent before the Lord. This important Bible word in its own understanding defines what it means. By having an undivided heart for the Lord means that we are silent before Him and listen carefully to Him as he speaks to us in the depth of our heart.

In the Gospel of today we continue our reading, as we will do for the entire year, from the Gospel of Mark. It is only the first chapter of Mark. Already he has called his first disciples. His disciples are now on a kind of missionary apprenticeship with the Lord. They follow Jesus.

He leads them into the synagogue and Jesus begins to teach.

It is interesting to note that immediately the people in this religious context are amazed at the wisdom that comes from the mouth of the Lord. They say to one another, “Here is the teaching that is new and with authority behind it…His teaching made a deep impression on them.”

Clearly the Lord is speaking His Saving Word in a way that makes them truly listen and be silent to what He has to say.

All of a sudden, an evil spirit in a man starts to argue with Jesus.

Isn’t it interesting that the first ones to recognise Jesus as more than just another Rabbi is the darkness of evil? The night surely knows when the dawn has arrived!

This is the first miracle that Jesus works in Mark’s Gospel. It is an exorcism. It is in Jesus, that the personification of the Kingdom of God proclaims that this kingdom now has begun and darkness and evil can have no place in this kingdom.

In desperation, the evil spirit in the man yells out, “Have you come to destroy us?” A very important point here is that the evil one gives Jesus the Jew a title that is his. The other religious leaders cannot recognise this. But evil does when the devil yells out to Jesus, “I know who you are: the Holy One of God.”

Jesus dismisses the evil immediately with the power of the Kingdom of God. He says to the evil spirit, “Be quiet! Come out of him!” Other translations would have it that Jesus says, “Be silent! …Come out of him” Here is the word again “silent” and “listening”.

So as we begin now this New Year of 2018 let us ask for the protecting power of Jesus, the fullness of the Kingdom of God, to ensure that all of us walk in the light of His kingdom. May this light of the Kingdom of God dispel all the darkness within our hearts and within our world and draw us closer to Jesus and each other in our missionary discipleship to the world during 2018.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn