The authority of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 31 January 2021
Deuteronomy 18:15-20  +  1 Corinthians 7:32-35  +  Mark 1:21-28
Photo by author, ruins of the old Capernaum where Jesus lived, May 2017.

As Jesus began his public ministry last week by the shores of the Lake of Galilee calling his first disciples, Mark presents us beginning today some glimpses into the life and person of the Lord in Capernaum where he grew up and would temporarily base himself.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit… All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-23, 27-28

First thing we notice with Jesus is his devotion to Judaism, his going to the synagogue at sabbath to worship God his Father; later we find how during major feasts he would also come to the temple at Jerusalem. What a beautiful reminder that personal faith and relationship with God has to be expressed and lived in a community like in our parishes.

In this glimpse into a typical sabbath day in the life of Jesus, we also find the reason why he launched his ministry from the province of Galilee and not at the center of Israel which is Jerusalem: and that is to serve the poor and marginalized, those neglected with nothing in life who always felt left out and forgotten by everyone.

That is no longer true as we heard him declared last Sunday, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

The author with friends and former colleagues at the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus preached on sabbath (May 2017).

A new teaching, proclaimed with authority

Mark tells us twice in our short gospel this Sunday how the people experienced Christ’s having authority in the way he spoke that was so unlike their scribes. Most of all, the people were amazed at his authority and power of words that expelled an “unclean spirit” from a man at their synagogue.

It was definitely something totally new and different that they wondered if it were a new kind of teaching, not knowing it was already God right in their midst in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh!

Today Jesus is teaching us the real meaning of power, his power of authority that actualizes persons and communities. Like the first disciples he had called last week, the people at the synagogue felt his words affecting them within. Their hearts must have been stirred and moved that they felt so good, moving them to share it with everyone that they all shared in the joy of hearing something new, something fresh and uplifting.

And it did not stop there.

The people then witnessed Jesus how drove away with his words an unclean spirit from a possessed man. They were amazed more upon seeing the possessed man freed from unclean spirit that “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

Such was the impact Jesus made on that day of sabbath at Capernaum that continues to our day especially when we gather for the Sunday Eucharist if we can only share in his authority.

Authority as power is always a service that sets people free.

Photo by author, a column among the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue in Galilee, May 2017.

The word authority came from the Latin verb augere, augeribus meaning “to make something increase” or become better. Akin to the word authority is also the word “author” as in the writer of a book or of a document whose words are regarded as true and correct, worth listening and following.

Therefore, real authority is not just having the power over the people to rule and subjugate them as most of us would always think.

Authority in the real sense is service, the power to enable and empower people so that they may become better persons, that they may mature and transcend themselves to grow as persons with so much potentials for change and development.

True authority always leads people to freedom from darkness and sins, sickness and evil that brings out their giftedness as beloved children of God.

That is the authority of Jesus who declared that he had come to serve and not to be served by giving his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28) so that we may all have life in him as our good shepherd, a life in abundance (Jn.10:10).

Jesus is the prophet promised by God to Moses in the first reading who shall come to his people to speak to them his very words of life. And by tracing our being prophets with authority to Moses, the first reading gives us too the only criterion for recognizing the true spokesperson of God: he must always speak the word of God that is always actualizing when spoken with humility and sincerity.

Notice how in our language and culture the close linkages of words and authority are so clearly pronounced and recognized: we call people with authority as “mga taong may sinasabi” because people who wield power always have a say in everything.

But what are they saying? What words would always come out of their mouths? Are they life-giving or inducing death, glorifying evil?

So many times, people say so many things that are nothing and senseless. Ang dami-daming sinasabi wala namang sinabi! That is how we call people without impact and true authority: walang sinabi.

Photo by author before celebrating a Mass at the back of Capernaum near the shore of the Lake of Galilee, May 2017.

How sad these recent years, we priests and bishops complain so often how people would no longer listen to us in the Church.

Could it be that this is due to the fact we have stopped speaking the words of God, when all we care to speak of is what we know, what we think of so we would be powerful and famous specially in the various social media platforms? (See https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/27/from-the-ear-to-the-heart/)

We say so many things but fall on deaf ears, no impact, no life at all because they are not the words of Christ whom we have long forgotten.

Worst, how tragic when we impose our own words, insisting our authority on the people that most often is self-serving, far from true and loving service of Jesus Christ.

Whatever happened to that ideal of lay-empowerment when we would not let people speak or at least listen to their voices and thoughts in running their parish?

Before we can make people listen to the words of God, we in the Church must be the first to listen to his words that come to us in a life of prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. What a hypocrisy on our part when we who are supposed to be unmarried and celibate who are “anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1Cor.7:32) would not even spend time to pray and listen to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Every day especially in every celebration of the Mass, Jesus comes to us in his authority to set us free from our fears and anxieties, sickness and sins, anger and resentments, compulsions and addictions among other things that hinder us from truly experiencing the beauty of this life.

Let us all pray today for us to have a share in the authority of Jesus Christ to set us free from our being deaf and dumb, blind and lame in the Church that is also his Body. Amen.

The old and charming Church at Baras, Rizal.

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