Catholic Theological Union LogoCatholic Theological UnionLearn@CTUCatholics on CallCatholic Common Ground Initiative

A Scripture Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

by Stephen Bevans, SVD | January 28, 2018

A Scripture Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

January 28, 2018


Readings: Dt 18:15-20, Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9, 1 Cor 7:32-35, Mk 1:21-28




All three of our scripture readings today are about prophecy and being prophets. As we reflect on these readings we might recall how we ourselves are called to be prophets as well in our world today. Ordinary prophets.


It’s easy to see the connection between our first reading from Deuteronomy and today’s gospel reading from the first chapter of Mark. Although we often don’t think of Moses as a prophet—when we think of prophets we thing more of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Amos—and yet the last lines of the book of Deuteronomy speak of him as a prophet without equal in Israel’s history. “Never since,” the text says, “has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” The reason, the text goes on to say, is that no one had ever done such signs and wonders as he.


It is because of this ability to do signs and wonders that the people in the synagogue recognize Jesus as a prophet, along with his ability—like Moses as well—to teach with authority. The parallel is clear: Jesus is the new Moses. He is the one that Israel has prayed for through the years. In Jesus, God has raised up a prophet like Moses, and put God’s very words in his mouth.


The theme of prophecy is perhaps not so clear in the second reading from First Corinthians, but it is there. Paul is calling the community to a prophetic life style—not so much through celibacy, which is often this passage’s interpretation, as through undivided commitment to the gospel and to God’s Reign. Paul is not condemning or downplaying marriage. He is simply saying that anything that distracts us from serving the gospel needs to be put in its place.


Psalm 95 calls us to hear the voice of our prophets in our daily life: “If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.” If we truly listen to the voice of Jesus, the new Moses, we ourselves will become prophets. As we listen to the voice of Jesus we can be taught by his wisdom, and witness to that wisdom by the kind of lives we lead. Jesus calls us to be ordinary prophets in our ordinary lives.


There is no doubt that our world today needs this kind of ordinary prophecy. In a world of shallow communication, we are called to be people who witness to and speak the truth. In a world of shallow relationships, we are called to be a people who commit ourselves to building community and friendship. In a world of fear and hatred of those different from us we are called to be people who trust and risk. In a world that finds it hard to forgive we are called to be signs of God’s love and mercy. As we try to live this way we might not be noticed for the “mighty deeds” we do. And yet little by little our honesty, vulnerability, patience, and integrity might work to exorcise the evil power of superficiality, isolation, suspicion, and hatred that seems so pervasive in today’s world. Ordinary prophecy, but prophetic work indeed.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Stephen Bevans, SVD

Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture
S.T.B., S.T.L., Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome; M.A., Ph.D., University of Notre Dame; Study: University of Cambridge

Steve Bevans is a priest in the missionary congregation of the Society of the Divine Word and Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture.

After completing his Licentiate in Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1972, he served as a missionary to the Philippines until 1981. In 1986 he received a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and has taught at CTU since that time, officially retiring from the faculty in 2015.

He is the author or co-author of six books and editor or co-editor of eleven, including Models of Contextual Theology (2002), Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (2004), and An Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective (2009). In 2013, he edited A Century of Catholic Mission, and, in 2015, with Cathy Ross, Mission on the Road to Emmaus: Constants, Context, and Prophetic Dialogue.

He is a member of the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Books written by Steve Bevans

© Copyright 2019 Catholic Theological Union. All rights reserved.
Site design and development by Symmetrical Design.