Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany – Year B

January 28 - February 1

Gospel Lectionary Text

Mark 1:21-28

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.

1:22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

1:23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,

1:24 and 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."

1:25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"

1:26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

1:27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching--with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."

1:28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.


In this week’s passage, Jesus casts out a demon in a synagogue. The religious leaders are “amazed” by his authority, which is so different from their own. Later in Mark, Jesus casts out those who maintain the sacrificial system in the temple (Mark 11:15-18). What are we to make of these two exorcisms that bookend the Second Gospel, both of which happen in holy places?

Throughout Mark, Jesus doesn’t shy away from challenging the religious leaders who uphold a system that labels people as “clean” and “unclean.” This makes the authorities nervous. And when religious leaders get nervous, something curious happens: unclean spirits appear.

That prompts the question: What if the spirit Jesus addressed is the concealed violence of the religious sacrificial system that generated fresh scapegoats? That might explain why the authorities were so threatened by him, even as they were amazed.


How can the message in this passage serve as Good News in our increasingly polarized world, where opposing factions often label each other as some form of "unclean?”


Take Lord and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all that I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you Lord I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. I ask only for your love and your grace. That is enough. See the complete prayer

Word from Below Reflections

Be Silent O Unclean Spirit

In the text today, Jesus encounters a man with an unclean spirit and speaks truth with authority and authenticity to him. And it triggers his whole being, shaking him to his core. I know this shaking in my own soul. Perhaps you do, too. As I read through the text, I find myself wondering what Jesus was teaching that triggered this man’s…

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Exorcising bad Religion

Jesus does not shy away from conflict in Mark’s Gospel. He turns and faces what most of us flee. In particular, he faces the religious leaders, who maintain the system that sorts people into clean and unclean. This makes the religious authorities nervous.

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Astonishing Authority

"I have the power to kill."

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Understanding the Bible anew through the Mimetic Theory of René Girard.

Weekly Homily by James Alison