Fourth Sunday of the Year
Dt 18:15-20, 1 Cor 7:32-35, Mk 1:21b-28
By Ayar Kujur
The scripture reading of today’s liturgy puzzled me merely because in the first reading chosen people told God that they (chosen people) don’t want to hear Him directly. In the second reading, St. Paul’s first letter to Corinthians, we heard that unmarried persons are able to be more concerned to listen to the Lord and to seek the will of God compared to married people and in the gospel reading the authority is appreciated. It is contrary to what I read in daily newspapers and listen to television that the authority of powerful persons are often criticised for good reasons and sometimes for the selfish reasons.
The gospel writer St. Mark draws our attention on Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue of Capernaum where the listeners are astonished on the new teaching. Jesus our teacher teaching with authority not like scribes, adds St. Mark in today’s gospel passage. There are few words repeated such as ‘astonished’ ‘authority’ and final emphasize is with the question ‘what is this?’ Why the crowd in the synagogue remained astonished in the teaching of Jesus? Most probably there must be two reasons as we have heard in the gospel: First, He taught with authority. Second, He silenced the evil spirit.
Firstly, the people in the synagogue found Jesus teaching different from the scribes who were the experts of the Jewish law in those days. The listeners had been listening to them from their childhood and many found nothing new because very often the words, the scribes spoke to them was quoted form the authors or seniors which had been spoken to base an argument and to show how knowledgeable they are in law rather than rooted in God and in the spirit of God. Jesus’ authority and power was perceived very differently by the gathering in the synagogue who were impressed after listening to Jesus and began to inquire what this is. Authority of Jesus was from above given to him by the Father to proclaim good news to all without any discrimination of gender, cast and creed. The authority and power given to Jesus was life giving and liberating power as we find in the beatitude, His ministry and preaching for example, raising the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, giving social status to the windows, showing compassion to the outcast especially lepers, paralytics, forgiving to sinners, correction with mercy to a woman caught in adultery, and bring life to dead. There are many more examples that Jesus used to promote human values. People experienced God’s life giving, liberating and God’s reign is already among them through Jesus that they found so attractive and so new in His authority.
Secondly, the amazing things happened in the synagogue was Jesus rebuked and silenced the unclean spirit. It was also known as devil or by name Lucifer and Beelzebub. The words spoken by Jesus made the unclean spirit to leave the person and it happened so. Jesus does so to show God’s compassion, love and mercy to all the people especially who are mostly affected by the diabolic spirits of society, religions, institutions, and politics and in the business. The evil one prevails even today in different form in society, church, temples, mosques and above all in human heart. This is the most dangerous I find. The evil tries to silence the God’s liberating power as we have heard in the gospel that what have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? There are many people who suffer the evil such as the victims of civil war, religious wars, ethnic riots they need the liberating power of Jesus today. There is injustice that makes millions to go hungry to sleep. There are selfish motive to steal the goods of poor openly. All the victims need love and compassion. But also the helping hands like Jesus who are ready to suffer for them become one in their suffering. Today the word of God assures us like in the first reading that the chosen person will be given strength to carry His mission. God will speak to them through the prophets.
Therefore, it is Jesus’s authority of life giving, liberating, it is the God’s word in the sacred scripture we need to listen, and finally both married and unmarried are equally given grace to seek and listen to the Lord in daily life. Let us ponder over whether are we still bamboozled to accept Jesus authority in our life?