4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)


He has authority over all creation

Gospel : Mark 1:21-28

  • The Gospels reveal Jesus to be the true prophet, the one who not only brings the word of God but who is the Word of God.
  • In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, there are several stories illustrating Jesus’ authority.
  • Today’s passage tells of Jesus casting out a demon. The people are amazed because the demon obeys Jesus.

SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor

Church's Living Tradition

Exorcisms in Church Tradition

GOSPEL—Following the example of Jesus, Catholic tradition has always recognized the need for exorcisms to free those possessed by evil spirits. Although sensationalized by movies like The Exorcist, exorcisms are done only in strictly defined cases and according to rigorous guidelines. The Catechism states: “In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called ‘a major exorcism,’ can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness” (1673).

SOURCE: © 2008 Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture
Pastoral Perspective

Relation between religion and health

GOSPEL—So what is one in our time to make of these ancient accounts of Jesus’ healing the afflicted, sick, deranged? First of all, one must note with seriousness the prominence of healing in Jesus’ ministry. Mark, more than any other Gospel writer, emphasizes Jesus’ miraculous power to heal and to exorcise. Of the eighteen miracles recorded in Mark, thirteen have to do with healing, and four of the thirteen are exorcisms. If nothing else, the early introduction of Jesus’ healing power and the dominance of healing among the miracle stories suggest again what the Scriptures had been hinting all along; that is, the intractable relation between religion and health.

SOURCE: © 2008 Feasting on the Word: Year B, Volume 1
Contemporary Significance

Ministering to the untouchables in our society

GOSPEL—The miracles in this section reveal that Jesus is not someone who is aloof, inaccessible, or detached. Our culture does not touch, and many people live in isolation from others. We seal ourselves off from one another with our privacy fences and retreat to the inner sanctum of the family room. The church is sometimes in danger of doing the same by retreating to its members-only, fully equipped Family Life Center, which becomes a safe cocoon from contact with the harsh realities of a disease-ridden, sin-sick world. We want others quarantined from us so that they will not infect us. But those who bear the name of Christ need to minister in the name of their Lord to those who are the untouchables in our society.

The church needs to minister in a nonjudgmental way. The attitude toward leprosy in biblical times is no different from our attitude toward certain diseases today. Some people are afflicted from illnesses that we assume they have contracted because of some sin. Many pronounce them guilty for supposedly having committed worse sins than their own and treat their disease as a curse that sets them adrift from the community and from God’s grace. What does it accomplish to declare piously that they are receiving in their bodies the just penalty of their sin (Rom. 1:27) and to stigmatize and ostracize those who already despair? It can only drive people further into despair.

SOURCE: © 2011 The NIV Application Commentary

Bible Study

Exegesis Outline

Sunday’s Gospel

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.


4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

CATHOLIC Bible Study

Jesus Teaches in the Synagogue and Cures a Demon-Possessed Man

by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)

In the Gospel Reading, the people were astonished at Jesus’ teaching because He “taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”  Jesus taught them with a true understanding of Scripture and the need for the necessary application of God’s words in their lives.  Even those possessed by demon-spirits recognized His authority.  Jesus is the promised prophet greater than Moses from the First Reading, and He is the supreme prophet, lawgiver, and covenant mediator of a new and greater covenant (Heb 8:6, 13; 9:15; 12:24; CCC 1962, 1964, 1965).


After His baptism by John the Baptist in Perea on the east side of the Jordan River (Mk 1:9-11; Jn 1:28) and His temptation (Mk 1:12-13), Jesus traveled north to the region of the Galilee and the fishing village of Capernaum.  The covenant people worshipped, prayed, and offered their sacrifices at the liturgical worship services that took place twice daily, seven days a week, at God’s holy Jerusalem Temple.   They could also observe the Sabbath obligation at their local village Synagogue when they prayed as a community and studied Scripture.  As a faithful member of the covenant community, Jesus kept the Sabbath obligation in the Capernaum Synagogue.  Our New Covenant worship services have elements of both the Synagogue and the Temple.  We study the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word and take part in the sacrifice by coming forward to the holy altar to offer our lives to Christ and receiving His gift of grace in the Eucharist.


In verse 22, the people compared Jesus’ teaching to the scribes.  Unlike the scribes, Jesus taught with authority and a genuine understanding of Sacred Scripture.  The scribes and Pharisees were part of the Old Covenant religious leadership.  From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, these two groups continually challenged Jesus’ teaching authority.

  • The scribes were usually Levites (the lesser ministers who served the chief priests) and received training as teachers of the Law.  The Pharisees were the most influential religious sect in first-century AD Judea, and many scribes aligned themselves with the Pharisees.
  • The Pharisees were strict interpreters of the Law and considered themselves more righteous than the ordinary covenant members they held in contempt.  They also controlled the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court.  Jesus will severely chastise the Pharisees for their lack of charity and hypocrisy on His last teaching day in Jerusalem before His Passion when He calls them a “brood of vipers” (see Mt 23:1-36).

The other sects with influence in this period were the Sadducees (mostly represented by the chief priests and the Herodian aristocracy) and the ultra-conservative Essenes.  The Essenes lived in cities and separate communities, dedicating themselves to asceticism, voluntary poverty, mysticism, and daily ritual immersion (baptisms of repentance and purification).


In verses 23-26, Jesus healed a man possessed by an “unclean spirit.”  The “spirit” is “unclean” because it resists the holiness of God.  The demon-spirit knows and fears Jesus, recognizing not only His true identity but His divine power.  Demons are spiritual beings that are the fallen angels created by God to be good but who, through their own free will choice, became evil by rebelling against God to follow Satan, himself once an angel (see Rev 12:7-9 and CCC 391-95). Jesus commanded the spirit to be silent when it called out His true identity in verse 25.  Jesus did not want a demon spirit to witness to His true identity.  His identity had to be revealed slowly through His acts and His teachings.


Many commentators see Jesus’ unfolding story in St. Mark’s Gospel as centered on the “mystery” of His true identity and the mystery of God’s divine plan that Jesus came to fulfill.  The Greek word “mysterion” in the singular is used just once in Mark 4:11, and its context in that passage is the “kingdom” of Jesus Christ.  “Mysterion” in the singular does not appear in the other Gospels where it only appears in the plural (Mt 13:11; Lk 8:10).  The word only appears in the singular again in Romans 16:25.  It is “the mystery” associated with Jesus’ true identity as the Kingdom of God incarnate and God’s reign that is breaking into the world to radically alter human life forever. Related to this revelation of the Kingdom is the sense that Jesus’ true identity must remain a secret until the climax of His mission.  Concerning the mystery of Jesus’ true identity in Mark’s Gospel:

  • Demons knew it and were silenced (1:44, 3:11; 5:5).
  • The disciples came to understand His true identity but were warned not to reveal it (1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26, 30).
  • Jesus taught in parables to conceal His mission and identity to those “outside” the Kingdom who were not willing to understand.  God only granted understanding of the mystery to those who embraced Christ with an open heart (4:10-12).


Following Jesus’ example of casting out demon spirits who torment humans, the Church has always recognized the need for freeing victim souls from the power of demon spirits through the rite of exorcism (CCC 1673).  The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation offer protection from demon spirits through the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul of the believer.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.


4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Paul Schlachter

“Quiet! Come out of him!”

Points to consider

  • I have always been impressed with the speed of Mark, how we are thrust into the ministry of Jesus almost from verse 1. People have already asked whether John was the prophet. Here they are asking: What is this? A new teaching with authority.
  • The passage begins with the Sabbath meetings, where Jesus entered the synagogue and taught, and where the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority. I want to catch that astonishment in my own words, since I encounter such authority rarely in my own life. If I get it right, I can help my listeners to imagine themselves witnessing everything and catching the enthusiasm.
  • Then I hear of a confrontation, the first of many in Mark: the presence of a man with an unclean spirit, who with his loud outburst would be unwelcome either in the synagogue or in our churches today. I can give an indication with my inflection that the man has embarrassed everyone present, but that for all that he is carrying on like a real prophet: I know who you are! I am not dealing here with some identity issue on the level of make-believe Smallville, but with a cosmic confrontation between the Holy One and our enemies. This would be a good time to pause to let the urgency of these words get through.
  • Jesus refused to take the bait and play the identity game. He rebuked him. He commands even the unclean spirits. It shows me that Jesus is concerned more with people than with slogans, and his actions have as much priority as his words.
  • Finally the people have their say. His fame spread everywhere.

Key elements

  • Climax: The only words of Jesus in the passage, simple but decisive: Quiet! Come out of him! We miss men and women of God in our world and are inspired when we meet them.
  • Message for our assembly: Here is another example of how Jesus reached out to people in need, and it should inspire us to reach out in our own surroundings.
  • I will challenge myself: To bring to life the Holy One of God, recognized with such vehemence by the demons but so easily marginalized by our churches today

Word to Eucharist

Of course we have answered the call of Jesus; we even call him Son of God even if we say it by rote. Where does church come in here? How does our presence in this procession relate to our answer? Do we believe that we can answer him only if we assemble here with our brothers and sisters?

SOURCE: Paul J. Schlachter at LectorWorks.org


4th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

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Jesus the exorcist

In Mark 1, Jesus performs an act of exorcism. This exorcism was actually performed on Sabbath in a synagogue (which was different than the Temple). What does this action indicate about Jesus and his mission to destroy the demonic in his ministry?

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