4th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
My Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
The common theme of today’s readings is Divine authority as exercised in this world by the prophets of the Old Testament in their messages, by the apostles (including St. Paul), in their writings and teaching in the New Testament, and by Jesus in his teaching and healing ministry. What do we mean when we speak about the authority of the lord? What do we mean when we talk about authority in general? What ways do we exercise authority? What ways do we exercise the authority of the lord? When we talk about the authority of the lord, we recognize that he is the creator, or author of the universe. He has the power to govern the universe. Just as an author can determine what takes place in the short story he or she writes, go d can determine what takes place in the universe he has created.
When we talk about authority in general, we speak about the power a person has received to determine the actions of another person or a group of people. Society creates laws to protect its citizen and then gives authority to the police to enforce these laws. For example we give the police the authority to stop our cars if we are driving at 54mph on a street where the speed limit is posted as 40mph. However, as the source of authority, we can change the laws. If we change the speed limit on the same road to 55mph, the police man no longer has the right to stop us if we are going 54mph. In general authority is intimately connected with its source.
All authority is by nature transitional, that is, all authority except that authority which comes from the lord. In the gospel of mark, the people were amazed because they had never experienced someone speaking with such authority. Jesus held people spellbound because god gave him the authority to teach the truth. This authority would never be removed from Jesus because Jesus was intimately united to his father, the source of the authority. The first reading tells us that a true prophet speaks with authority because it is God Who speaks through him. After the Babylonian exile, the Jewish priests began to interpret the words of Moses given in the first reading, namely, “a prophet like me,” as referring to one individual, the expected Messiah. This passage is chosen for today’s first reading because it refers to Jesus, the “preacher with authority,” mentioned in today’s Gospel.
In the second reading St. Paul exercises his God-given authority as the Apostle to the Gentiles to teach people in Corinth that marriage is a holy state ordained by God and that it is a life-long partnership according to the teaching of the Lord. Mark describes one sample Sabbath day of Jesus’ public life. Jesus joins in public worship in the synagogue as a practicing Jew, heals the sick, drives out evil spirits and prays privately. People immediately noticed that Jesus spoke with authority and healed with Divine power. Jesus explained the Scriptures with complete
confidence, and when questioned by people, he answered with authority. Jesus used his real (authentic) Divine authority to teach, empower, liberate, and heal others. The evil spirit mentioned in today’s Gospel recognized Jesus as the Messiah and acknowledged him as such. Jesus commanded the evil spirit harshly, using strong words and tones: “Be quiet! Come out of him!” This was another reason Jesus developed a reputation for speaking with authority.
After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.
In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Our modern understanding of illness is very different. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. There is evidence that there were many kinds of exorcists and healers in first-century Palestine. Jesus appears to be like these healers, but he heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching.
We need to use our God-given authority to build up lives; So many people with authority have made a lasting impression on our lives either for good or bad. Perhaps it was a grandparent, an uncle, or a parent, who loved us and cared for us. Perhaps it was a Sunday school teacher who encouraged us in our Faith and exerted a positive impact on our lives. Perhaps we remember the kindness as well as the firm discipline that a schoolteacher gave us. Teachers are powerful because they change and mold lives. Hence, let us all become good teachers like Jesus and use our authority to form young lives in the right way.
May God Bless Us.