God's Word on Sunday: We’re drawn to God through inspired words

  • January 25, 2024

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Jan. 28 (Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28)

Who is the mystery prophet of whom Moses and God spoke? He was never named and virtually no clues or hints were given. This led to speculation throughout the centuries, with the prophetic label pinned on different candidates. In the New Testament, he is simply referred to as “the prophet coming into the world,” and many thought that Jesus fit the role perfectly.

But perhaps the ambiguity was intentional. It could have been a way of communicating that despite the death of Moses, God’s prophetic voice would always be present in Israel. They would never lack divine guidance. The Lord would raise individuals from among the community, and there have been many — Joshua and many of the prophets of the Old Testament among them.

But that prophecy also came with a warning label: beware of imitations! Human nature being what it is, there will always be those who proclaim their own agenda — and far worse, their own exaltation and aggrandizement. It was made very clear that God has nothing to do with such people and that they will bring ruin on their own heads — hopefully before doing harm to others. History is strewn with the tragic wreckage resulting from charismatic individuals proclaiming a religious message filtered through a selfish and supercharged ego.

God’s voice comes to us constantly through the inspired words and actions of those moved by compassion, mercy, forgiveness and justice. These words and actions should draw people closer together and closer to God and they should inspire hope and new life. There are many prophets among us, some anointed by God and of them prophets with a lower-case “p,” but with a message for us just the same. Look for the words and deeds of authenticity and do not settle for anything less.  

Paul was a bit unfair in his stark contrast of married and single people. To be sure, this letter was written in a time of anxiety and end-times tension. The return of Jesus and the transformation of the world was expected at any moment. Paul was trying to keep people focussed on the most important thing — serving the Lord. But it does not follow that an unmarried Christian is more dedicated to serving the Lord than a married one. That would depend very much on the individual in question, that person’s commitment and their life circumstances. Marriage is definitely an acceptable and honoured way of serving the Lord, as is a dedicated single life. No service to God done with a sincere heart is insignificant.

On the surface, there was nothing extraordinary about the words of Jesus. Most of them can be derived from the Old Testament tradition. And yet, His words were electrifying to all who heard them. They were also extremely powerful, for even the demons shuddered in terror and begged Jesus to leave them be. They knew exactly who He was and what His presence meant for them — their days were numbered. Jesus had come to take back a wayward and fallen world from the darker forces and return it to God.

In the Jewish tradition, spoken words were taken quite seriously and were given respect. Words had incredible power, for good or ill, depending on the intention with which they were uttered and the inner state of the speaker. The words of Jesus had a special resonance and energy, for they came from the mind and heart of the creator. The words were pure, untainted by selfishness, greed, fear or lust for power. They also expressed the will of God, which is always life-giving and compassionate. There is a vast difference between words that come from the depths of the heart and soul, and words that are read from a book or a sheet of paper. Our own words can have power, but much depends on us — they can be as shallow and ineffectual or deep and powerful as we choose. Speaking with authority has nothing to do with rank or office but flows from being in harmony with the divine source. And these words must be in harmony with our deeds and the way we treat others.

Speech is a wonderful instrument, and we need to use it in the way that God intended.