The Power and Authority to Enlighten and Free People

January 31, 2021 – Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Manoling Thomas, CSsR

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In the world of showbiz, some aspiring movie actors and actresses, just starting in their showbiz career, resort to time-tested gimmicks! Publicly, they give out controversial statements. Others are even more daring: by behaving or actually engaging in scandalous affairs! All these are done for publicity, just to get the attention of the public; and become the “talk of the town”! They want to promote their popularity! With the availability of the social media, some even enjoy recording their statements or compromising behaviour, and feed these to the social media, hoping that these will go “viral” and they become the famous and “talk of the town”!

In today’s Gospel, Jesus, did not have to resort to any of these gimmicks to catch the attention of his audience and to become “the talk of the town”! Jesus’ intent was to tell the people that the kingdom of God is already present! In the synagogue, one Sabbath, Jesus did two things that spontaneously caught the people’s attention!

  1. He taught “with authority” so different from the way of the authorized teachers, the scribes!
  2. He commanded the evil spirit to get out of a man who happened to be also there in the synagogue.

The people in the synagogue, according to Mark (1:27), “were amazed, and they kept on asking one another, ‘What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.’”

In Jesus’ culture and time, people who went beyond their designated area of expertise were practically unheard of. If there were, they could easily get into a big trouble! Jesus was born into a family of carpenters and artisans. He neither had a formal training in teaching nor was he ever affiliated with the group of the scribes! Some who were there were indeed shocked, yet to them, Jesus came across as one teaching with authority! They had never witnessed such kind of a teacher before!

And as if that was not enough, Jesus also exhibited a power that was stronger than that of the evil spirit whom he commanded to get out from a man it possessed. In Jesus’ time people, like many of us Asians, had a strong belief in spirits, good and bad! They believed that these spirits had a stronger power over human beings. But their power was less than that of God’s! These spirits were capable of interfering in human lives either for good or for bad. They had power to control human behaviour and to “possess” humans, as in the case of that man!

To break and counter the spell of these spirits, one must know and call out the name and true identity of the spirit! In today’s Gospel, it was the spirit which first called out and revealed the true identity of Jesus, as “the holy one of God”! [v.24]. But instead of conquering Jesus, the other way round happened! Jesus conquered the evil spirit and drove it out of the man.  Where did Jesus get this power? Who is this Jesus? His power is stronger than that of any human person! Is Jesus’ power from God or from some lesser gods or spirits?

Whereas movie personalities use gimmicks to draw attention to them and gain popularity, Jesus wanted to draw and focus the attention of the people to the reality that indeed, the Kingdom of God “has come near”. Jesus simply wanted to connect the people to this God, who loves and cares for them!

Jesus used his God-given authority and power to enlighten and to free people, from anything that would hinder them from living as dignified and honorable sons and daughters of God! Jesus freed the possessed man, restored his dignity and honor, and released him from the power of the unclean spirit. Now this man can reclaim his rightful place in the community!

How do you use your God-given authority, talent, and power? For what purpose do you use these? Do you truly believe in the power of Jesus, so much so that you do not allow evil to deceive, intimidate, scare, or bully you?

Mark wrote [1:28] that the people were the ones who spread the fame of Jesus! Are you among those who do your part to continue in spreading the fame of Jesus and his Gospel?

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