4th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

God is faithful, and good, and wonderfully generous to all who follow the call.

Crowd of people using a zebra crossing
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First Reading: Deuteronomy 18:15-20

  • What qualities do you see in this reading for a prophet of God?
  • Notice how the reading emphasises that the coming of the prophet is a response to what the people had asked of God; what does this teach us about our own life of prayer as individuals and as a community?

Psalm: Psalm 94(95): 1-2, 6-9

  • This psalm has begun the Church’s daily liturgical prayer for centuries. In many ways, it gives us the shape of worship. What facets of worship do you detect in this psalm?
  • Meribah and Massah are mentioned in the events of Exodus 17; re-read that chapter, does it help you interpret this psalm?

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

  • How does Paul understand the role of celibacy?
  • Paul says he does not want to put a halter around the people’s necks, literally a noose. Consider this image in the light of the freedom the gospel offers.

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

  • Mark’s gospel has a number of accounts of demonic possession and healing. Notice how the spirits in Mark recognise Jesus immediately, whereas it takes human beings a lot longer.
  • The response of the people to Jesus healing the possessed person is interesting: why do you think their initial response is to declare this a new teaching? What did Jesus ‘teach’ here?


St. Paul, today, continues the argument that we began reflecting on last week. If you haven’t looked at that reflection, it might be helpful to give it a quick read-through for context.

Today we see something of Paul’s pastoral heart: “I would like to see you free from all worry.”

The modern world is eaten up by anxiety. Whether that’s a young renter worried that when her tenancy agreement gets renewed, it will price her out of her flat and force her into bidding wars for a new one with 30, sometimes 40 possible new tenants; or an older office worker watching with increasing concern as younger colleagues do work so quickly with the help of AI that he wonders if he will be made redundant soon. Anxiety of one form or another is rampant in our world that attaches value to possessions, to career, to ephemeral success. Paul looked at first-century Corinth as not so different from our context. Remember, it was a city of self-made people: traders, entrepreneurs, people who had made their living off their own backs.

Paul’s response is to call us to be devoted solely to the Lord. The word ‘devote’ means consecrated; it comes from the Latin root to make a vow. Remember how previously we were reminded of our status as temples of the Holy Spirit? This is a continuation of that theme: as temples of the Holy Spirit, our lives are consecrated to God, and we should be totally devoted to God.

Why does Paul make such a radical claim on us? It’s linked to what we heard last week: the world is passing away. Our houses and our jobs or relationships will not be here forever. We can build our lives on sand or on rock, but not on both. As Jesus teaches in the gospels, God knows we need the things of this life: relationships, homes, and a stable job. It’s not that we ditch them all as irrelevant, but it is, once again, about perception and perspective. Set our hearts on God’s kingdom, devote ourselves to the Lord, and all these things will be given as well. Given – as gifts.

Sometimes we’re asked if Jesus is number 1 in our lives. Or sometimes it’s phrased differently: is God the centre of your life? Paul’s message here is radical, and challenging: he’s saying that having the Lord as number 1, having him at the centre, is nowhere near enough. To do that is still to give God only a portion of our lives. Rather, he is supposed to be the entirety, the whole horizon, the sunrise and the sunset and everything in between. Whatever we do, we do it in and for him. This is the crux of Paul’s message over the last few weeks: because you have died and risen with Christ in Baptism, because the Spirit dwells in you, because you claim to be or want to be a disciple of the Lord – everything in life changes and re-orients to be about him.

Is that true for you?

It’s daunting, but remember the good news: God is faithful and good and wonderfully generous. It takes faith to give up control of life to him, but when we do, everything can be as it should be, says St Paul.


  • Poverty of heart: CCC 2544-2547 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
  • The First Commandment: CCC 2083 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)