Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
January 28, 2024
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.








Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor you with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

First Reading Dt 18:15-20

Moses spoke to all the people, saying:
"A prophet like me will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.
This is exactly what you requested of the LORD, your God, at Horeb
on the day of the assembly, when you said,
'Let us not again hear the voice of the LORD, our God,
nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.'
And the LORD said to me, 'This was well said.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kin,
and will put my words into his mouth;
he shall tell them all that I command him.
Whoever will not listen to my words which he speaks in my name,
I myself will make him answer for it.
But if a prophet presumes to speak in my name
an oracle that I have not commanded him to speak,
or speaks in the name of other gods, he shall die.'"

Responsorial Psalm Ps 95:1-2,6-7,7-9 

R/. If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Come, let us sing joyfully to the LORD;
let us acclaim the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us joyfully sing psalms to him. R/.

Come, let us bow down in worship;
let us kneel before the LORD who made us.
For he is our God,
and we are the people he shepherds, the flock he guides. R/.

Oh, that today you would hear his voice:
"Harden not your hearts as at Meribah,
as in the day of Massah in the desert,
Where your fathers tempted me;
they tested me though they had seen my works." R/.

Second Reading 1 Cor 7:32-35 

Brothers and sisters:
I should like you to be free of anxieties.
An unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord,
how he may please the Lord.
But a married man is anxious about the things of the world,
how he may please his wife, and he is divided.
An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord,
so that she may be holy in both body and spirit.
A married woman, on the other hand,
is anxious about the things of the world,
how she may please her husband. 
I am telling you this for your own benefit,
not to impose a restraint upon you,
but for the sake of propriety
and adherence to the Lord without distraction.

Alleluia Mt 4:16 


Gospel Mk 1:21-28 

Then they came to Capernaum,
and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.
The people were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit;
he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
Jesus rebuked him and said,
"Quiet! Come out of him!"
The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
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."
His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Catena Nova

All the epistles of the apostle teach self-control and continence and contain numerous instructions about marriage, begetting children, and domestic life. But they nowhere rule out self-controlled marriage. Rather they preserve the harmony of the law and the gospel and approve both the person who with thanks to God enters upon marriage with sobriety and the one who in accordance with the Lord’s will lives as a celibate, even as each individual is called, making their choice without blemish and in perfection (St. Clement of Alexandria).

And as for the demons, the Good is their source and the fact of their existence is itself good. They are evil insofar as they have fallen away from the virtues proper to them. They have changed in the domain of what was permanent in them. A weakness has appeared in the angelic perfection suitable to them. They too desire the Good, at least to the extent that they have a wish for existence, for life, and for understanding, and their desire for what has no being is proportionate to their lack of desire for the Good. Indeed this latter is not so much a desire as sin against real desire. (Pseudo-Dionysius)

The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all, how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it. (St. Vincent de Paul).

Deep convictions inspiring joy and peace, these are a part of the revelation which Christ, the Son of God, brings to those who obey him....Those who look towards him for teaching, who worship and obey him, will by degrees see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in his face, and will be changed into the same image from glory to glory....” Religion has a store of wonderful secrets which cannot be communicated to others, but which are most pleasant and delightful to know....Strange truths about ourselves, about God, about our duty, about the world, about heaven and hell, new modes of viewing things, discoveries which cannot be put into words, marvelous prospects and thoughts half understood, deep convictions inspiring joy and peace, these are a part of the revelation which Christ, the Son of God, brings to those who obey him (St. John Henry Newman).

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight (C.S. Lewis).

To offer the suffering of celibacy, temporary or permanent, to the Lord is to make use, in the best possible way, of man’s greatest joy (Dorothy Day).

I have a nagging hunch that the gospel’s power in our own time is about to be manifested in a manner as repugnant to the sensibilities of the society at large, and all of us who have accommodated ourselves to it, as the early Christian message was to Roman paganism. Our society is possessed, Christians as much as anyone. We are possessed by violence, possessed by sex, possessed by money, possessed by drugs. We need to recover forms of collective exorcism as effective as was the early Christian baptism’s renunciation of “the devil and all his works” (Walter Wink).


       Hollywood's award season is upon us.  Someone who never gets nominated, but should given the number of movies and TV programs he has appeared in, is none other than the Devil.  The endless fascination with demonic possession gave us last year's The Exorcist: The Believer It was the sixth installment in the franchise.  A sequel is planned with the sub-title Deceiver Appropriate for the "Father of Lies."  Then there's Netflix's Lucifer Morningstar (Get it?) — a character appearing in the eponymous series and who's currently on Netflix's popular Sandman though with a different actor and storylines.   Such things, like most of what the "entertainment industry" offers us, is distraction and nobody loves to distract more than the Devil.  

       Though distraction is something the Gospel of Mark wants us to avoid at all costs.  It's one reason Mark often has Jesus trying to silence those who either knew his "secret identity" — like the demons in today's gospel — or else who would turn him into a "celebrity" on account of his various miracles.  All of these things served as potential distractions from the "secret" Mark is gradually unfolding, namely, that Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many (10:45).  For the Cross looms large in this gospel, sometimes called a "passion narrative with a preface," and the evangelist draws us steadily toward it and wants nothing to distract us.   

       This may also be why, when the Hebrews asked God to cease and desist with the theatrics at Mt. Sinai, it seemed a welcome request —such that, instead of thunder and lightening, a prophet like Moses would someday make known what the God of the Covenant is all about: someone in whom God would put his words in his mouth and tell them all that he commands them (cf. I).  For flashy displays can be a distraction from far more important matters, such as fidelity to the covenant and its Law. So when Jesus of Nazareth appeared in the synagogue of Capernaum and the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, that made people sit up and take notice.   Yet despite all this, Jesus does employ power to command even the unclean spirits to obey him (cf. G) along with other displays to follow in Mark's narrative.  

       Now whatever the metaphysical status of the angelic world might be, there are certainly "unclean spirits" that can invade our personal and collective lives.  The pope is currently giving a series of talks at his weekly audience on the virtues — "clean spirits," if you will — but he's starting off with their "unclean" counterparts,  the vices.  And since most of us never hear these teachings,  — I thought I would share some relevant passages.

      The first vice of which Francis spoke was gluttony where he said,   

The way we eat is the manifestation of something within: a predisposition to balance or immoderation; the capacity to give thanks or the arrogant presumption of autonomy…. In the way we eat, we reveal our inner selves, our habits, our psychological attitudes.

… from a social  point of view, gluttony is perhaps the most dangerous vice that is killing the planet…. the voracity with which we have been plundering the goods of the planet for some centuries now is compromising the future of all. We have grabbed everything in order to become the masters of all things, whereas everything had been consigned to us for us to  protect, not for us to exploit. (January 10)
       The following week he spoke of lust, noting how  
lust plunders, it robs, it consumes in haste, it does not want to listen to the other but only to its own need and pleasure…. Among all human pleasures, sexuality has a powerful voice. It involves all the senses; it dwells both in the body and in the psyche, and this is very beautiful; but if it is not disciplined with patience, if it is not inscribed in a relationship and in a story where two individuals transform it into a loving dance, it turns into a chain that deprives human beings of freedom…. We have to defend love, the love of the heart, of the mind, of the body, pure love in the giving of oneself to the other. (January 17)

       And this past week, Francis treated of avarice, or greed.  He said,

It is an attempt to exorcise the fear of death: it seeks securities that in reality crumble the very moment we hold them in our hand. We, brothers and sisters, may be the masters of the goods we possess, but often the opposite happens: they eventually take possession of us…. This is what the miser does not understand. He could have been a source of blessing to many, but instead he has slipped into the blind alley of wretchedness. (January 24)

       Now does all of this mean we alone struggle against these tendencies within us?  Or that temptation is solely the result of genetics or conditioning?  Not according to Francis who does not shy away from "speaking of the Devil."  In the first of these audiences, he counseled 

one must never dialogue with the devil…. Be careful: the devil is a seducer.…When temptation arises, never dialogue. Close the door, close the window, close your heart. And in this way, we defend ourselves against this seduction, because the devil is astute. He is intelligent…. Be careful! … We have to be the custodians of our hearts…. This is the recommendation — guard the heart — … . And we must ask for this grace of learning to keep watch over the heart. Knowing how to guard our heart is a form of wisdom. (December 27, 2023)

       (By the way,  I assume these things should be heard against another recent comment, namely his personal opinion, "I like to think that hell is empty. I hope it is.” (January 14). For we place out trust in the true Morning Star (2 Pt. 1:19; Rev. 22:16): the Dayspring who strengthens us to honor God with all our mind, and love everyone in truth of heart (Collect) and to do by  adherence to the Lord without distraction (II). 

Intercessions (Joe Milner; The Sunday Website)

For the Church: that the authoritative teachings of Jesus will guide and challenge us as we seek to be more authentic disciples.
For the grace to be grounded in God: that each of us, whether celibate, single, married, or widowed, may seek God first in our lives and love others with the love with which God first loves us.
For all who exercise authority: that they may use their authority as Jesus did, to free people, to heal the sick, and to build up the community.
For all who are bound by evil: that the Spirit of Christ may release them from addictions, greed, anger, and vengeance so that they may live in the freedom of God’s children.
For all who have mental and emotional illness: that God’s love will strengthen, heal, and sustain them and help us to accompany them along life’s journey.
For members of Congress and legislatures: that they will hear and comprehend the needs of the powerless and marginalized as legislation and priorities are developed.
For all who are grieving: that they may experience God’s comforting presence and the loving support of others.
For all who are held unjustly, for those caught in human trafficking, and for prisoners of conscience: that God will free them and give them strength.
For all who are suffering: that God will protect those who are in the cold, guide the unemployed to new job opportunities, and help families find sufficient food.
For Peace:  that God will impel leaders to a deeper dialogue that will promote safety and development for all people.

Your sovereign rule, O God, draws near to us in the person of Jesus your Son. Your word summons us to faith, your power transforms our lives. Free us to follow in Christ’s footsteps, so that neither human loyalty nor earthly attachment may hold us back from answering your call. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Offertory Antiphon


Offertory Hymn


 Moses to gathered Israel said,

 “One like to me, who’ll be your head,

 God will call forth and give him speech;

 Let him your inmost heart then reach.”

 Jesus the Lord, one Sabbath day,

 Cast out a spirit, who did say,

 “You are God’s Holy One, I know!”

 Causing amazement there to grow.

 Free of all worries called to be,

 Busy with God’s will endlessly,

 We shall with Christ’s own words most bold

 Work until heaven we behold.

Communion Antiphon


Closing Hymn 

Come, follow me and live; do not be afraid. Believe and trust in me; your faith will give you strength. Leave all your fears behind you; let your heart be free, so I will be your guide. Oh, come and follow me. Come, follow in these footsteps; I'll lead you gently home. No shelter, food nor money will you need upon this road.   Come, walk across the water; place all your faith in me. Cast all your doubts behind you to the wind and raging sea.  If you remain within me, my words remain in you. Whatever you ask of me, that is what I will do.