Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
This Sunday’s readings tell us about the Divine authority. Today’s first reading tells us that a true prophet speaks with authority because it is God who speaks through him. 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. In today’s Gospel, 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.
Jesus’ world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia and in Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York’s Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?
The Divine authority is a liberating authority. It is not a conquering authority. Jesus did not use his authority and Divine power to rule and control people. He came to make people free. Hence, let us approach Jesus with trusting Faith so that he may free us from the evil spirits that keep us from praying and that prevent us from loving others and sharing our blessings with others. Jesus also frees us from all the “evil spirits” of fear, jealousy, envy, addictions, compulsions, selfishness, anger, resentment and hostility. May he free us from all those spirits which make us deaf, dumb, blind, lame and paralyzed, physically and spiritually.
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 school teacher 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.
God Bless You,