4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 1, 2015
Dt. 18:15-20; 1Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28
Why cultivate a discerning heart?
The audience in the synagogue of Capernaum in today’s Gospel passage heard two voices. First of all, they heard the voice of God speaking in the human voice of the God-Man Jesus Christ and they marvelled at the words of authority that came from His lips, “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.” They also heard the voice of an unclean spirit speaking through a man, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?”
In our daily lives, we also hear both voices speaking to us. We hear God speaking to us through others and we also hear the devil speaking to us through others, whether these human channels of communication are conscious of it or not. In this world, we are constantly under the influence of these two forces seeking to gain mastery over our minds and hearts. It thus becomes necessary for us that as we listen to this world, we must ask, “Whom am I listening to now?” We must differentiate the voice of God from the voice of the evil one. How do we differentiate these two voices?
The voice of Christ Jesus, who “came not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfil it,” (Mt 5:17), moves us to embrace the divine will with love and leaves us with deep peace that abides and continuously grows even in the midst of challenging and difficult situations. The interior peace of Christ, “which this world cannot give,” (Jn 14:27) is rooted in our being led into deeper reconciliation with the Father. God, speaking to Moses in the First Reading, said, “I will raise up for them a prophet like yourself from among their kin, and I will put my words into His mouth; He shall tell them all that I command Him.” Jesus Christ is that uniquely faithful prophet who, like Moses, would set His people free from bondage to sin and death, journey with them and guide them through the long and difficult journey through the desert of life and bring them home to union with God in heaven. Even as we struggle in our earthly journey home to the Father in the Spirit through this earthly life, in Jesus Christ we have both a liberator who has set us free and a faithful and trustworthy companion who journeys with us to that place of perfect peace.
On the contrary, the voice of the devil moves us to seek for a false peace by diminishing or discarding the unfavourable demands of the Gospel. We see this in the voice of the possessed man in today’s Gospel speaking about Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” How contrary these words are to intentions of Jesus, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”(Jn 10:10) The voice of the devil makes us see God as wicked, uncaring and oppressive, a God whose laws are just useless burdens, commands out of touch with current trends, garbage that we must jettison so that we can find peace. The last thing that the devil will have us believe is Jesus’ words about our life of discipleship, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”(Mt 11:30) The tempter’s voice paints this yoke as unbearable, mean, and useless.
I was reminded of the need to discern properly the sources of the voices we listen to in the world today when I heard that Catholic Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan switched from being pro-life to becoming a supporter of legalized abortion after he said he listened to accounts of women who had had abortions. No doubt it is a painful thing to experience an abortion and a difficult choice to make and we must sympathize with those who have experienced such. But I wonder if the Congressman also spoke to the multitude who had abortions and bitterly regretted their decisions. Did he listen to those who went through years of unbearable guilt and depression for their abortions and who would never wish it on anyone? What about listening to the now silenced screams of the millions of aborted children whose voices echo only in our near deadened consciences? Most importantly, did he listen to the voice of the Prophet Jesus who speaks in our consciences with words like, “Whatsoever you do to the least of these (especially the unborn), you did to me?” We become slaves of created things and our own ideologies as long as all we do is listen to this world, without asking, “Whom are we listening to now, the voice of Jesus or the voice of the deceiver?” Such a wicked slavery has never been known to bring any form of peace to persons or to society.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are indeed not alone in this world. We are in the middle of an intense spiritual battle for our hearts and minds. We must listen to the world and the people in this world. We cannot flee from this world. But we must also be discerning listeners because the devil remains “ruler of this world”(Jn 12:31) and he speaks to us as slyly as he spoke to our first parents in the Garden of Eden with the goal of making us see God’s stated will as an unnecessary and cumbersome burden that we just cannot hope to bear. We must bring a discerning heart into this uninterrupted battle between wicked slavery to the devil and freedom and peace in Christ Jesus. With such a heart, as we listen attentively to this world, our response would not be based on mere sentiments or public opinion but we will make decisions that are inspired only by the words and life of Jesus Christ.
We must remember that “In times past, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son whom He made heir of all things.”(Heb 1:1) Why is it imperative for us to listen to His voice in our world in these last days? Simple! His words alone lead to deep, abiding, and growing peace and free us from bondage: “I will hear what God the Lord will speak, for He speaks of peace to His people, to His saints, to those who turn to Him in their hearts.”(Ps 85:8) Jesus’ words to us are not another opinion but they are words that let us know the Father’s will most clearly and leads us securely in God’s path for the sake of peace.
As we in the Philippines celebrate Pro-Life Sunday, let us recall that the Eucharistic Christ whom we encounter today is that perfect Prophet speaking His words of peace into our hearts, peace that comes not from this world but from our on-going journey into an ever deeper relationship with the Father. As Jesus Christ our liberator and ever faithful companion continuously speaks to us, so too does the devil speak to us in our world. With our discerning hearts, let us choose well whom we listen to because our peace in this world and in the next ultimately depends on what voice we choose to heed.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honour to Mary!!!