Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2021
St. Paul’s opening words in our Second Reading are pleasant enough.
I would like you to be free of anxieties.
I would like that as well. Who wouldn’t? But these days, who can be?
Among the numerous things that cause us anxiety are the tragic events of 1/6/2021. That day is like a bad dream from which we can’t seem to wake up. The image of the domestic attack on our nation’s capital is an inescapable memory, constantly reinforced by the news…wherever or however or from whomever you get your news. Moreover, the core issue is causing anxiety in countries all around the world. At the heart of all this civil unrest is the question of “who will lead us?”
This political crisis is certainly not new, nor is it restricted to civil governance. The dilemma of placing power and authority into the “right hands” is at issue in businesses, social organizations, families…even within our Church. The Readings for this 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time offer the perfect model for the resolution of any power struggle.
In the passage from Deuteronomy, we find the Israelites dealing with a roaring case of national anxiety rooted in the need for leadership. Anticipating the day when Moses would turn over authority to a successor, Israel recognized that, to wield power properly, a leader’s skillset must include the ability to make God’s will and God’s ways known. The people prayed for someone to govern them who would have the strength and wisdom to direct the nation on a course pleasing to God.
In fact, God was quite pleased with the wisdom and spiritual maturity the people demonstrated. And so, God promised a powerful leader who would govern the people in truth. This promise was kept. Moses watched from a distance as the new leader led the Chosen People into the Promised Land.
But God’s promise reached well beyond Israel’s immediate need…responding to the needs of all humankind…every people in every nation throughout history. Which brings us to our Gospel.
Mark describes how, what was foretold generations before, came to pass in a synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. What we have in this brief exchange between Jesus and a man caught up in darkness is a power struggle. Darkness challenges The Light of Christ and The Light prevails. It is a power struggle that will continue until Christ returns in glory, leading creation into the Reign of God. Then, evil will totally surrender.
However, while we wait, darkness will continue to challenge The Light. Hate will challenge Love. Selfishness will challenge Mercy. Violence will challenge Peace. Revenge will challenge Forgiveness. Lies will challenge The Truth. Death will challenge Life.
The tragic reality of sin, however, should not be a cause for anxiety. By facing off against and driving out darkness on that Sabbath so long ago, Jesus established Himself as the Supreme Authority. The Lord is God’s promise fulfilled.
We aren’t going to be able to escape power struggles. They are part of our earthly reality. While we exist in time, waiting for Christ’s time will be challenges to the Gospel. But our faith assures us that the Holy Spirit will lead us out of darkness. For that reason, when anxiety challenges peace…we know that in the end…peace will prevail…because Christ is Peace! And Christ never loses.