First Reading: Deuteronomy 18. 15 – 20
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7. 32 – 35
Gospel Mark: 1. 21 – 28
The people in the synagogue exclaimed, ‘Here is a teaching that is new and with authority behind it.’ This journey of Jesus to the synagogue where he taught with authority and healed a man with an unclean spirit is the first public act of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. According to Mark, Jesus first appeared on the scene as an authoritative teacher, as someone whose teaching, whose word, could deliver people from their demons, from the forces that were oppressing them and leaving them diminished as human beings.
Jesus was recognised as someone who taught with authority. The word ‘authority’ has received a rather negative press in recent times. Various ‘authority figures’ have been criticised, often with good reason. Yet, in Jesus people experienced an authority that they found attractive, an authority that, in the words of the gospel, left them so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. Jesus was recognised as a person of authority because of the word that he spoke and the impact for good of that word on others. Ultimately, his authority was rooted in God, in the Spirit of God that descended upon him at his baptism. The first public words he spoke after his baptism were, ‘the reign of God, the power of God, is at hand.’ God’s life-giving, liberating power was working through him, and, so, he was recognised by others as authoritative. The power of God’s love working through him gave him that authority which people found so attractive and so new.
Jesus defines authority as the exercise of God’s life-giving and liberating power, the power that raises the lowly and fills the hungry with good things, that includes within the community those who have been living on the edge, the power that forgives those who have done nothing to deserve forgiveness. This is the power of the good Samaritan who took care of his fellow traveller even though he was a Jew; it is the power of the Father who welcomed his returning son, the prodigal, who had messed up; it is the power of the widow who in giving two copper coins to the temple treasury gave everything she had. Within the gospel’s vision of life, these are the exercises of power that confer authority. Not all power is worthy of being recognised as authoritative. The imposing figure of G.K. Chesterton, the English writer and wit, was, apparently often seen squeezed behind a table in London restaurants. During one of his literary lunches, Chesterton was expounding on the relationship between power and authority. He described the difference in these terms: ‘If a rhinoceros were to enter the restaurant now, there is no denying he would have great power here, but I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.’
Jesus was a preacher, a Teacher, and a Master. People, except his enemies, never felt that they were let down. In today’s Gospel we read: the people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.. A were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” The authority Jesus carried with him put all the evil spirits down and even drove them away. Besides, his authoritative words calmed the storm, heal the sick and consoled the afflicted. His authoritative words still rule the world and the hearts of human beings. It gives food for life, mind, heart and soul. It casts out demons. It will not leave the world without effecting what it is intended for.
What made Jesus posses such incredible authority through the words? Usually a word that it uttered by any human being, carries authority from factors who is speaking and what is being said. In his preaching and teaching Jesus said, existed some incredible and power-filled messages. But who was he who spoke those things, gave weight, credibility, and authority to his teaching. Any word Jesus uttered was connected with his life and action. He never said what he did not practice or experience . He never stopped telling things in Truth but, always made it accompanied with the Love in action. He said love your enemies, be kind to another. As he preached, on the cross he forgave those who tortured and killed him. He himself was a kind, loving person. He spoke about God’s kingdom and lived as the ideal member, of that kingdom.
Whenever God decides to choose humans to be his prophets, he makes sure they are intimately connected to his Spirit. In the history of Israel, as we read in the first reading, people wanted to hear from the Lord. However they were afraid of God’s power. They said: “Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, Our God, nor see this great fire any more, lest we die.” So God chose Moses an along with him certain people, to be his liaison or spokesperson. In whose mouths he put his words and forced them to tell his people all that he commanded.
So many of us are offered the role of prophets in our world. We may be house maker, a single parent, teacher priest, preacher, catechist elder in our family and community and we may be elected or appointed as a leader for the community, for the business or a small association. Wherever we are as Christian, e are asked by Jesus to carry on his prophetic role, to proclaim God’s word with authority. In order to perform it successfully we have to give first priority to God in our life, to know him, to love him and to serve him. Let us not be like those false prophets, whose God is only in heaven. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Beware of the person, whose God is only in the skies.” Let us be always true prophets, who speak and instruct with authority, an which results in reaping abundant fruits.
For us as Christians, Jesus remains the ultimate authority. Like the people of Capernaum, we recognise his authority, the authority of his teaching and his deeds, the authority of his life, death and resurrection. That is why we confess Jesus not just as our teacher but as our Lord. We are happy to submit to his authority, to his lordship, because we recognise that in doing so we will have life to the full, and, like the man in the gospel, be freed of those spirits that prevent us from becoming the person God intends us to be. There can be great reluctance today to submit to anyone. The value of personal autonomy is highly prized and sought after. Yet, it is not possible to live without submitting to some authority even if it is the authority of the self. What matters is to submit to the right authority and today’s gospel suggests that such authority is to be found in the person of Jesus.
God bless. Have a blessed Sunday.