Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 29, 2012
Deuteronomy 18.15-20 | Psalm 95 | 1 Corinthians 7.17, 32-35 | Mark 1.21-28

Kathleen Giffin

January 23, 2012

One characteristic of this era is the overemphasis and reliance on our own perspective and ability to understand as the means by which we determine what is right and good. It comes, I think, from the natural tendency of the brain to order data, reach conclusions and make judgments based on those conclusions.

Yet if that normal means of understanding reality is not tempered by a humility which acknowledges the limitations in our ability to grasp the fullness of truth, we can end up seriously disoriented.

I had an interesting experience recently that illustrated clearly for me how stubborn the mind is in clinging to what we believe. I was driving from Hinton to Jasper in mid-morning on a winter day. Now "everyone knows" that Jasper is west of Hinton and, having lived here for many years, I certainly had Jasper clearly to the west on my mental map.

'Be silent, and come out of him!'

Mark 1.25

But as I was driving I was suddenly completely disoriented to see the sun rising in the west. It was most interesting to me to note my inner conversation as I worked to convince myself that the rotation of the earth was an unchanging fact and if the sun appeared to be rising in the west, then clearly I was not travelling in the direction I thought I was.

The remarkable thing was how intransigent my mind was in insisting that I was going west and, therefore, the problem lay with the location of the sun. Of course the answer is that I was actually travelling south and my orientation, combined with the southern aspect of the winter sun, created the confusion.

I'm reminded of that experience as I read the Scriptures for this Sunday, for I hear them point to spiritual truths and Church teachings that people often discount or approach skeptically.


The passage from Deuteronomy states that God will chose one who will speak in God's name, and who must be listened to as though he were speaking for God. I hear that foreshadowing in what the Church teaches about apostolic tradition.

Many people have a hard time believing that God would use a male hierarchy to tell them what to do when "in fact" they can figure out on their own what is best for them.

The passage from Mark recounts Jesus' encounter with a man who is possessed by a demon. This, too, is hard for some to accept. The concept of an evil that is "personal," in the form of demons, doesn't line up with how they see spiritual realities. So they create explanations and rationalizations as to what this Scripture really means.

Some other explanation must be found - like maybe the sun rises in the west now.

When we use our assumptions, preconceptions, opinions and what "everyone knows" as the basis for accepting or rejecting the teaching of Scripture and the Church, we end up disoriented and missing the opportunity for the truth to conform our minds to the mind of Christ.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)