4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B ON JANUARY 31, 2021 (R. 1: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 95: 1-2, 6-7, 7-9; R. 2: 1 Corinthians 7: 32-35; Gospel: Mark 1: 21-28)

FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO

THERE IS FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN!

Asa (born Bukola Elemide) is a Nigerian French singer, songwriter and recording artiste. In her song titled “Fire on the Mountain” she says:

There is fire on the mountain

And nobody seems to be on the run

Oh, there is fire on the mountain top

And no one is running

 

I wake up in the morning

Tell you what I see on the TV screen

I see the blood of an innocent child

And everybody’s watching

 

There is fire on the mountain

And nobody seems to be on the run

Oh, there is fire on the mountain top

And no one is running

 

One day the river will overflow

And there’ll be nowhere for us to go

And we will run, run

Wishing we had put out the fire.

In today’s first reading, the children of Israel are on the East side of the River Jordan across from the Promised Land.  Remember that Moses led them all the way from Egypt where they were in slavery through the desert and now, they are about to cross to the Promised Land. But Moses would not cross to the Promised Land with them, so he is preparing them for the times ahead. He promised them that God will give them a prophet like himself who would speak God’s word to them. One important quality of a true prophet is that the prophet speaks God’s words in season and out of season: whether convenient or not.

After Moses, came Joshua who eventually led the children of Israel across the River Jordan to the Promised Land. Moses as a prophet spoke the word of God and promised that a prophet like him would come after him, and that was fulfilled in the person of Joshua. But that was only a preparation for the perfect fulfillment of the prophecy. The prophecy would find its perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ. The Hebrew name Yeshua (Joshua) is rendered in Greek as Iesous, while in Latin it is Iesus, and then in English, the “I” is replaced with “J” thereby giving us Jesus. With this, we come to the realization that the one who fulfills the promise partially and the one who fulfills it perfectly bear the same name, which means “Yahweh is Salvation”. The immediate responsibility of Joshua who took over from Moses was to lead the children of Israel across the River Jordan to the Promised Land. In a more perfect way, Jesus will begin his public ministry in the same River Jordan, where he will be baptized by John and his mission will be to lead us to the eternal Promised Land, the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Moses spoke of the Prophet that will come after him as one who will speak only the words that come from God. Joshua came after Moses and spoke God’s words to the people. But when Jesus came, he did not only speak God’s Word, but he came as God’s Word that became flesh to dwell among us. For this reason, all those who listened to him recognized that there was something unique about him. After he delivered the possessed man in today’s Gospel passage, “All were amazed and asked one another, ‘What is this?’ A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

It is important to observe here that the possessed man was in the Synagogue and everyone seemed to have been ok since they were not affected, but Jesus certainly was not ok with the fact that at least one person was not ok. The presence of Jesus sent the signal that there was fire on the mountain. Without quizzing the man about his credentials, he immediately quenched the fire that was burning the man. Jesus is the perfect Prophet promised by Moses who has come to speak God’s word of deliverance to us. As we come before him at this Mass, we also ask him to deliver us from our uncleanness. And as we do that, let us examine ourselves to see how like the Pharisees, we have been comfortable with the discomfort of others because we are not the present victims.

The Scribes and Pharisees were not bothered because it was someone else who was possessed. When a part of the body is infected, the other parts must not feel unconcerned as the infection can quickly spread to other parts of the body. When a family member is in trouble, the other family members must not look away. When a parishioner has fallen from the faith, if we are truly members of the same Body of Christ, it should never be an occasion for gossip or exhibition of any kind of “Better than thou” attitude. If there is unrest in other parts of the world, we must not deceive ourselves to think that we will continue to be safe if we do nothing about it. Many of those who should speak out are indifferent in the face of gun violence because it has not really hit home.

My dearly beloved in Christ, let us look around and pick up that fallen brother or sister so that when we fall tomorrow, someone will be there to pick us up. If the wind has not blown off your candle, please, put some light on your neighbors’ candle so that when the wind blows yours off, someone will be there for you tomorrow. In as much as it is wise to save some money in the bank, it is important to help the less privileged with some of it today so that they can thank you while you are still alive. There is fire on the mountain, let’s go and put it off so that when the river overflows, we will have a place to run to. If you see a bully bullying someone and you stand idly, you are as culpable as the bully. Jesus saw the unclean spirit bullying the man in the Synagogue and he immediately acted. We must all take responsibility, for as Edmund Burke says, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good men to do nothing.”

 

 

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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