Oh, That Prophet!

January 31, 2021 The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s readings: When Truth Comes to Town

Psalm 95:1-9, Deuteronomy 18:15-20, 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, Mark 1:21-28

We all value the truth. The reality of truth gives us clarity in our circumstances, our relationships, and ourselves. No matter how much it hurts, everyone wants to know the truth. The liar manipulates in order to control us or to spare themselves some anguish. We resent it. It’s a good thing to remember when we ourselves are tempted to lie. There are many lies and many liars. Fortunately, there is one truth teller, God Almighty. In today’s reading in Deuteronomy 18:15-20, the Lord promises to raise up a prophet from among the Israelites who will speak God’s honest truth. It’s a high stakes proposition. The Lord’s prophet must be one hundred percent correct in everything that he says. If not, then he dies for the liar that he is. The people, on the other hand, must obey the true prophet or face grave consequences. Throughout Jewish history, God raised up prophets. They, however, were only foreshadowing the actual prophet referred to in our Deuteronomy reading, the Lord Jesus Christ. While they merely spoke God’s words, Jesus is the Word. He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). This leads us to the amazing conclusion that truth is not a thing, but a person.

Our gospel in Mark 1:21-28 gives us the account of a synagogue on the day that Truth came to town. They invite Jesus to open the scrolls and begin. He astonishes everyone with His instructions. He wasn’t like anyone they ever heard. He taught with authority! Of course He did! He wrote the scriptures! Nobody knows a book like the author. Suddenly, a demon-possessed man erupts the scene shouting at Jesus and asking if He, the Holy One of God, has come to destroy them. Jesus commands the demon to shut up and come out of him. The evil thing complies. It has no choice. Jesus as God only speaks absolute truth; a truth which creates reality in the speaking. That is how the universe began with the Word (see John 1:1-3). So here, in our gospel, the Word spoke. Reality changed. The demon was exorcised, and the Truth set the man free.

Truth frees us in other ways as well. It is the mirror of self-examination that we need for life decisions.  Friends, finance, fulfillment: all are choices best made when we know the truth about ourselves. In our reading today in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, the Apostle Paul prefers the single life since it allows for greater God focused service. Being married occupies your time and attention toward your family. But no two people are alike. Through prayer, scripture, and self-examination, we can discover the calling God has for each one of us. The truth for one may be the liberty of celibacy and service. Another person is born for the married life. Both have value and the Apostle allows for both. After all, somebody has got to have the babies. Making right decisions according to the truth about ourselves brings joy. Wrong choices lead to frustration. So, it’s a good practice to keep checking that truth mirror…and in the looking, let’s not ignore the deepest truth about ourselves: we are sinners in need of a Savior.

Our reading in Psalm 95:8-11 warns us against hardening our hearts against this reality. Embracing the truth is the answer to our situation. Jesus, the Truth, declared Himself to be the Life and only Way to the Father (John 14:6). In His mission to seek and save the lost, He gave us salvation promises. Because the Truth spoke them, we know they are real and form the basis of our faith. So, receive the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Ignore the liars and follow the truth of the Gospel. Claim the pledges of the Almighty for your soul’s salvation. And as it says in Psalm 95:1-7, bow down joyfully before our creator God. Let us determine to spend our lives speaking the truth in love; we are never more like Jesus than when we do.

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