Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Yr B, January 28, 2024

Several people have asked “What is happening to the Church?” They perhaps have read or watched a lot of YouTube videos and podcasts by online self-acclaimed theologians and internet apologists who troll them with captions and topics to which they seek clicks that gain them monetary advantage or congratulatory plaques saying that they have reached a viewership or subscriber landmark—maybe, a hundred thousand or a million. The anger and resentment brought about by clicks on our dear hand-held devices is perhaps reaching an alarming proportion and impacting the mental and spiritual health of many Catholics. And do you know who rejoices in getting us unsettled? Our enemy, the devil, foists anger and hatred upon us, as a way to discourage us and lead us to doubt our faith and reject God. Some ask: “Where is God in all the confusion we experience in our lives, in the society, in the Church? Didn’t he promise, as we heard in today’s first reading that, he will raise a true prophet among his people, and that if a prophet presumes to speak in his name an oracle that he had not commanded him to speak...he shall die?” Why then do we hear contradictory voices? Why is there so much confusion in our day?

I would not deny the fact that we live in challenging times, and our faith is being seriously tested by events in the Church and the world. Hence, we ought to cling to the Word and Power of God that is able to save us from the menace of evil. It can be daunting to find ourselves in this struggle to keep our heads high. Yet, if we peer deeper, we will find revealed the power of Jesus who alone has the authority to destroy evil and bring calm to our lives.

Last Sunday, we heard how Jesus’ authority was revealed as He called His first disciples and, automatically, they followed Him, abandoning their trade and family. Makes you wonder, what sort of person is that. His words are so effective that when He speaks, instant action follows. The Church in her prayer calls Him “the (creative) Word through whom God made all things.” So powerful is this Word that in Him speech and action are one and the same thing. Before Him, evil spirits shriek and melt like ice cubes inside a microwave; the powers of hell collapse at His presence. The demoniac of today’s gospel shout in fear: “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The man was quickly dispossessed by the devil and repossessed by God. It’s that same authority of Jesus that brought you today to worship God and acclaim the Son of God who walked the terrains of Palestine some two thousand years ago. Listen to stunned expression of those who heard Him: “Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: He gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey Him.”

A distinctive mark of Jesus’ teaching is that it has authority behind it. The people testify that unlike the scribes with their uninspiring, worn-out speeches, Jesus’ teaching convinces, impresses, and magnetizes those who hear Him. The simple reason: it is true. It’s not filled with the jargon and hysterical mumblings of modern day ideologically-driven politicians and newsmakers, who pretend to be newscasters and servants of the word.

Jesus has especially the power to confront evil, a subject matter that perturbs many and has infested many lives in modern society. The philosophers define evil as a deprivation of good that should be there. Having a physical and spiritual component, evil is jarring. Though physical evil like sickness, death, poverty, war, storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other disasters may threaten, a greater threat comes from spiritual evil which numb and menace life at its core. Its bequests are: abortion, euthanasia, gender ideology, drug and porn addiction, etc. Just as we ask Jesus to deliver us from wild fires and storms, so we must ask Him to deliver us, too, from devilish ideologies.

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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