Catholic Homily Outline for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B: Marriage

1vierras75thannivesary-vertWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority. Doctrine: The vocation to marriage. Practical application: Understand and defend marriage.

To view Lectionary 71, click here.

Central idea: Authentic prophets who teach with authority

Reading 1 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.’”

  • God did send Israel a long line of prophets who spoke the words God commanded them to. John the Baptist was the last of that kind of prophet.
  • But Deuteronomy tells us that “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses” (Dt. 34:10).
  • God’s promise, then, was completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who was a prophet like Moses because he gave a New Law, who was from among the kin of the Chosen People, who revealed the Father, and who, like Moses, worked great signs.
  • The Chosen People asked not to hear and see the LORD directly anymore because it was too much for a living person. In Christ, though, God once again lets us see and hear him directly, because he has taken on human flesh.

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.

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.

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.”

  • We just read God’s promise to send a prophet who would speak God’s words to us and whose words we should listen to.
  • God’s truth comes to us in many ways, but we hear God’s word most directly in the life, works, and words of Jesus Christ.
  • In order to hear these words, we must do the opposite of hardening our hearts. We must listen to them in our hearts. Maybe we even need to soften our hearts.

Reading 2 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.

  • Paul was celibate for the sake of the kingdom of God. He could devote himself wholly to “the things of the Lord.”
  • Those who are unmarried can choose this state as well. Hence, we have in the Church the consecrated life. God calls persons to celibacy in order to devote themselves totally to “the things of the Lord.” They also bring many benefits to the rest of us—just as St. Paul brought the Gospel to the Corinthians.
  • Married people do have anxieties the celibate do not share. Married couples are anxious to please God but we also want to please our spouses, raise our children, earn a living, care for a home, and fully participate in civic life. We do this amid the vicissitudes of life.
  • Marriage is also a divine vocation and a Sacrament, so that in doing what husbands and wives do, baptized spouses receive grace and please the Lord.

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.

  • Jesus, with the newly gathered apostles he was forming, made his base in the Galilean city of Capernaum.
  • Jesus’ “own kin,” that is, the Jews attending the Sabbath service, were astonished at his teaching. Why?
      • The scribes were literate, learned scholars of Judaism. They preserved, studied, and commented on the Scriptures. Their wisdom was all derived from what they received. Although Jesus might quote the Scriptures, he spoke on his own authority. He spoke like Moses, telling people directly what God had to say.
      • His words were also performative. By his word he could bring about actions. He could free people oppressed by illness, injury, possession, and even death.
  • When the unclean spirit called Jesus “the Holy One of God” it was attempting to gain power over Jesus by using his precise name. However, Jesus freed the possessed man with his commands, also revealing his authority.

Doctrine: The Vocation to Marriage

  • Paul said that married persons are anxious to please the Lord and their spouses. What is the vocation to marriage more fully?*
  • Marriage is “a covenant or partnership of life between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (CCC glossary).
  • In creating Adam and Eve in the state of matrimony, God made marriage the natural vocation of human beings and a reflection of the loving relationship within the Blessed Trinity.
  • In marriage, man and woman are equal in dignity but complementary in the gifts they offer one another. While marriage retains its inherent goodness and purpose after original sin, it is wounded and so always subject to disorder.
  • Christ restored marriage to its original dignity as a one-flesh, life-long union which reflects Trinitarian love, and, for baptized spouses, he raised marriage to the dignity of a sacrament.
    • The two essential characteristics of Christian marriage are exclusivity and indissolubility.
    • In marriage, mutual submission means the wife should submit to her husband like the Church submits to Christ and the husband should love his wife like Christ loved his Church, with total self-sacrifice.
    • The Theology of the Body is St. John Paul II’s catechesis on the meaning of marital sexuality as an expression of human and divine love.
  • The marital act has two purposes, which should not be separated: the unitive and procreative. The Church condemns contraception because it separates the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act.
    • Natural Family Planning (NFP), or periodic continence, is a moral method of spacing births if the couple has a serious reason to do so.
    • The sins against marriage violate either the exclusive and indissoluble nature of marriage or the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act. They include adultery, pornography, fornication, polygamy, cohabitation, free unions, trial marriages, divorce, same-sex unions, contraception, in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and surrogate motherhood.
  • The Sacrament of Matrimony contributes to the good of the family and of society by sanctifying and forming the family members and contributing good citizens to society.

*From The Didache Semester Series text Vocations, “Chapter Three: The Vocation to Marriage”

Practical application: Understand and defend marriage

  • Know marriage. It is necessary today for every mature Catholic to have a clear idea of what marriage is.
    • One reason for this is not to be overcome by false ideas ourselves.
    • Another reason is to be able to tell others the truth about marriage in the spirit of 1 Pt. 3:15-16: “Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you” with gentleness, reverence, and a clear conscience. By doing so, we share in the prophetic office of Jesus Christ.
    • Still another reason is to be able to advocate for natural marriage in public policy for the good of civil society.
    • A good current resource is the 120 page booklet “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive,” the preparatory catechesis for the eighth World Meeting of Families this September in Philadelphia.
  • Live marriage. Of course, if we are married we must conform ourselves to the demands of marriage. Marriage, including sacramental marriage, is wounded because we retain the wounds of original sin and so disorder can exist in our own marriages. We who are married can examine our own behavior in light of the vocation of marriage outlined above.
  • Prepare for marriage. If you are single but think your vocation is to matrimony, now is the time to prepare for it.
    • You can pray for your future spouse, even if you currently have no idea who that person is.
    • With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will attract the mate God is preparing for you. With God’s help you can work on becoming the kind of person who will be the spouse and parent God is calling you to be.
    • This preparation could be physical, academic, occupational, intellectual, practical, moral, and spiritual.
      • A very important kind of admirableness to cultivate that might seem hidden at first but which will be clearly revealed over time is the possession and exercise of virtues, especially the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, and the natural virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, including the virtue of purity.
    • One woman’s remarkable preparation for marriage and the transformation it effected in her and her future spouse is recounted here.
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