Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalms 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Reflection Question: What does authority mean?
After calling his disciples to follow him in last week’s Gospel account from Mark, Jesus settles in the town of Capernaum. We hear how he entered the local synagogue and taught. We don’t know what he taught, but we do know HOW he taught--with authority. He taught the people in a way they had never experienced before. “As one having authority, and not like the scribes”. Poor scribes! The gospel says the people were ‘astonished’ at his teaching and ‘amazed’ when he cast out a mouthy demon. The people in the synagogue don’t question Jesus’ authority. They recognize it and allow it to astonish them.
Later in the Gospel of Mark in chapter 11, the religious leaders question Jesus’s authority: ”By what authority are you doing these things?” He refuses to answer but he continues to teach, to exorcise demons, and to heal.
Mark is presenting us with an ironic and even comic scenario:
The people recognize Jesus’ authority without question,
the leaders question it to undermine it and to gain their own religious authority back,
but the demons know exactly where Jesus gets his authority : “I know who you are--the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24).
Authority refers to the knowledge, status and power of the author. The author is the originator, the creator; the one who can speak to the reasons for the design; the one who knows all the details. The scriptures (and also Benjamin Franklin) call God the author of life. The people who heard Jesus were astonished because when they heard Jesus teaching, they heard God teaching. The religious leaders were angry when they heard Jesus teaching because his greater authority challenged their own and also challenged their idea of God. The demons were frightened by Jesus’ authority as it meant their expulsion, their defeat and domination.
In this Sunday’s first reading, Moses gives the people a message from God:
“A prophet like me (like Moses) will the LORD, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kin;
to him you shall listen.”
Here, the people of Israel had come to the end of their time of wandering and were ready to take possession of the Promised Land. Just before this passage, Moses had warned the people that they would encounter a culture that depends on false prophets and fortune tellers. The warning was to NOT rely on these impostors, but to stay faithful to the Lord and look for His prophets.
In Mark’s Gospel we see such a one! Jesus who is from among our own kin as a fully human man and who is the Word of God and so speaks with the weight and knowledge of the Author of Life. He still speaks to us with that same authority.
By: Kristina Davies, Director of Faith Formation, Saint Vincent Basilica Parish, Latrobe