4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
02/01/2009
Readings
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

Near the end of the Pentateuch Moses makes the following proclamation: “A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15). The reason the Lord gives for raising this new prophet one day is that “you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly…‘Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.’” (Deuteronomy 18:16). The ancient Israelites are afraid of direct contact with God, fearing that His presence alone could destroy them (cf. Deuteronomy 5:24-26). So, in His loving condescension, the Lord promises instead to send someone at a later time “like [Moses]” who will be a new mediator between God and man.

Of course, the mediator that God one day sends is Jesus Christ: “There is…one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Man feared direct contact with God and desired someone to mediate for him; God both grants this desire and goes far beyond it: He sends a man who is also God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:1,14). Rather than sending another prophet like Moses, He sends His only Son.

This Son, being God as well as man, has an authority no other prophet or teacher before him had, a point that Mark’s Gospel clearly establishes. In today’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28), we see how Jesus differs from the normal teachers of the Law: while they would simply repeat the Law given to Moses with some interpretation added, Mark comments that Jesus “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). This authority is then demonstrated in practice by his encounter with the demoniac. By Christ’s simple command, the unclean spirit is forced to leave the possessed man. Jesus, the Son of God become man, has complete authority over all.

The ancient Israelites recognized rightly that they could not stand without aid in the presence of the all-Holy God – His holiness is a consuming fire that would overwhelm them. But Jesus – the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24) – veiled this fire in flesh, and through this flesh he transforms his disciples so that we might be able to stand in God’s awesome presence. Instead of the fire of God consuming us, it now – because of the intercession of the one mediator Jesus Christ – purifies us, making us into new creations united to the all-Holy God.
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