Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 31, 2021
I have a seminary classmate who will occasionally chide me when we’re having a conversation—or rather, when he’s talking to me. If he perceives me not really paying attention to him, he’ll say, “Gregory, are you in my world?” What he means is, “Are you listening to me?”
Listening is crucial. When it comes to the word of God, listening is absolutely essential. Today’s First Reading and Gospel share the theme of “listening.” Moses tells the people that God will raise up a prophet for them. God is giving them a prophet since the people were too frightened when they heard God address them directly—the people feel that a human intermediary would be easier to listen to. But Moses warns them: They’d better listen to God’s prophet in that case—not listening will have consequences!
In the Gospel Jesus performs an exorcism. In doing so, he demonstrates that even the unclean spirits whom he drives out listen to him. The people who witness the event are amazed at all this and Jesus’ fame spreads. He’s the fulfillment of that request from the people long ago. He’s prophet par excellence, speaking God’s word. But even more: He is God’s Word enfleshed. Hidden in the Gospel story is the unspoken question: Will we listen to him? Will we choose to be part of his world, the Kingdom of God which Jesus is bringing into our midst?