Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Fourth Sunday Ordinary Time - January 28, 2024: A Homily with Free Spirit Inclusive Catholic Community by Elaine Pfaff ARCWP

Dt 18:15-20; Ps 95; Mk 1:21-28 

As we continue our journey in what the lectionary calls ordinary time, let’s be reminded that in the East, many Christian churches are emphasizing our human dignity as creations of God.  These months between Epiphany and Lent  are viewed as a time to celebrate our royalty.  That attitude of self regard and openness to one another as vessels of Divine guidance is important to the theme of today’s liturgy – Hearing God’s Voice.   

This is the context in which we might approach today’s readings.  Deuteronomy starts us off by confronting us with truth speaking.  “A prophet like me,” says Moses, will be summoned “from your own kin” for a very fundamental purpose:  to speak truth.  Martin Luther King advanced that fundamental necessity of truth speaking when he said  “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”    So let’s continue to be charged with that same prophetic responsibility – to stand up, to come from the authority we know as God’s sharing voice in us, to use our voices and actions for good.  And just as importantly … to be receptive to the words of others who contribute their light for our good.   

The expression “from your own kin”  ramps things up in a very personal way.   God’s voice is familiar.  Jesus testifies to that kindred familiarity when he says “My sheep hear my voice and I know them” in John’s Gospel. (Ch 10)  How we respond in that intimate relationship of mutual listening, mutual knowing -  runs the gamut of human experience.  To be sure, hearing the divine and responding stirs our unconscious fears.  What prophet in the bible said, “O good!  I’m being called to challenge my group?!”   

The word “familiar” has been lingering around for me.  It’s that sense of - you know when you know when you know.  When I notice something I’m intended to internalize, that “something” lands with a new yet familiar place within me.  Yes, that sounds like the God I know and love, even and especially when I’m challenged to grow.    I’ve been reading about the Salem witch trials in 17th century New England where the very use of the word  “familiar” met with  fear and suspicion to the point of destruction.   A law stated “If any man or woman be a witch, that is hath consulteth with a familiar spirit, they shall be put to death.”   It’s based on bible verses in  Ex 22: 188 and & Deut 13:6.  So to have a familiar spirit was to be aligned with evil only. 

When Jesus confronts evil spirits in today’s Gospel he commands them to be quiet and to come out. He refuses them any space or authority.  Even so,  the  threat of death to the afflicted was not even a consideration. Would that we continue to learn from Jesus’ example of nonviolent resistance to evil in this day.  It might take us forever to live completely without a trace of violence and aggression like Jesus, like Martin Luther King, Sr Helen Prejean, like you and me – all  peace and justice activists currently and  throughout time.  To  hear and trust the familiar voice of God compels us to do just that.

Focus question for sharing:  How do you recognize and trust the voice of God within you?  What is your experience of shared authority among your kin? 


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