Today’s Gospel (Mark 1: 21-28) presents Jesus going to Capernaum where he enters a synagogue and teaches. Two powerful truths are given us: Jesus comes to us today. This is what the Incarnation is all about; Jesus dwelling among us. Just as Jesus walked with his disciples and came among the people to teach, he comes to us today.
Secondly, Jesus is Teacher. He taught in the synagogue in Capernaum and the people recognized a ‘new teaching’ in him, because he taught with ‘authority.’ Jesus indeed teaches with authority because He is the Source of God’s Word. Jesus is the Living Word of God. He does not teach from a tradition, as did the rabbis and scribes. Rather, Jesus proclaims the very Word of God AS the Word of God. Thus, His teaching is powerful and fruitful.
Jesus taught with authority because he is from the Father and always remains in the Father. We are called to experience the same power of God’s Word in the person of Jesus as those in the synagogue in Capernaum that day.
The first reading from Deuteronomy (18:15-20) finds Moses proclaiming to the people:
A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your kin; to him you shall listen.
Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus is from God while at the same time ‘from among your kin,’ as he is born of the line of David, and born of the Virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Moses goes on to say:
This is exactly what you requested of the Lord, your God, at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said: ‘Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire anymore, lest we die.’
Remember how God through Moses summoned the people to the base of the mountain before Moses ascended the mountain to receive the commandments. There was a great epiphany at that time, with clouds covering the mountain, lightning and thunder, fire and shaking of the earth. No wonder the people were afraid!
This same fear comes back to us in the Gospel today. In the synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit who spoke in these words:
What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!
Here is one of the great deceptions of the enemy. He wants us to be afraid of God. Through the form of a question, he wants us to fear that God comes only to destroy us. Indeed, Jesus comes to manifest the unseen God and to reveal the intimate closeness and love of our God. Jesus comes with power, yes, but the power that frees us from our sins, redeeming us and renewing us in the Life that is forever. Thus, the words of Jesus are often: “Do not be afraid.”
How often do we pray to hear the voice of God? How often do we plead to see the face of God? Then, when God answers our prayers, we withdraw out of fear. The words of the Psalmist are a great instruction for us: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Psalm 95)
Finally, let us look at the second reading which is from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians. (7:32-35) St. Paul notices that the married man and woman are “anxious about the things of this world,” while the unmarried man or woman are concerned only about pleasing the Lord. How often today people are anxious and distracted by trying to please their spouse and provide for their family. But, in the midst of these responsibilities, where is faith?
St. Paul is instructing us to adhere to the Lord at all times in all things. By faith in the Lord and belief that he is with us and will provide for all our needs, we can go about our daily obligations with peace and tranquility – if we but live our faith and put our hope and trust in the Lord.
Here is a beautiful example of such faith:
On the day he was ordained to the priesthood, Jorge Bergolio (who today is Pope Francis) was handed a letter from his grandmother, Rosa. She was from the working class, and did not have many worldly possessions, but she had great faith. And this was her gift to her grandson in the following words:
To my grandchildren I give the best of my heart… But if one day, pain, illness, or the loss of someone they love should afflict them, let them remember that one sigh before the tabernacle, where the greatest and most venerable of the martyrs is kept, and one glance at Mary at the foot of the cross, will cause a drop of balm to fall on the deepest and most painful wounds. (The Great Reformer, p. 100)
Let us have the faith and devotion of Grandma Rosa. Let us recognize how near Christ is to us. Let us hear the voice of God in the person and teaching of Jesus. Let us allow the power of the proclamation of Good News change our hearts and our lives.0