Monday, January 30, 2012

With Authority!

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Mark 1:21-28

As part of the requirements of seminary formation, each of us met with a spiritual director at least monthly to discuss vocational discernment and other spiritual things that were taking place. It was helpful because often the person had gone through similar things or at least knew better how to respond and could offer some helpful advice. One time I went for a session with my director and at the end he said, “Brent, I have some homework for you to do for next time. I want you to sit down at some point this coming week and read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting.” I looked at him a bit confused. “One sitting? We take a whole year in the liturgical cycle to read it.” But, as directed, I went home and read Mark’s gospel in one sitting. Much to my surprise, it only took me a couple of hours with the unexpectedly-short length of 25 pages.

One thing that I liked is that it read quickly. Believed by many to be the written account of St. Peter’s own preaching, we can get a glimpse into what it was to hear the gospel proclaimed in a genuine form. Rather than lengthy discourses or parables, we hear more frequently the stories of healings and exorcisms. These were all signs to convince people and to illustrate the reality that Jesus was truly the Son of God and the Savior anticipated for so many years. Behind all of these many powerful stories, though, we recognize that it is the authority of Jesus Christ that is really the key. It is that authority, which we hear about today in the readings, which enables Him to do all of the things that we hear about, beginning with the cleansing of the man in the gospel we just read. It’s about authority.

When we look at the passage given to us this weekend, we immediately find the Lord teaching in the synagogue, where the people are astonished at his teaching because He taught with authority, not as the scribes. You see, the scribes were the scholars of the Law and often spoke in reference to it in teaching. But rather than simply speak about it, they constantly reference Rabbi so-and-so who spoke about a particular point and quoted those who went before them, going all the way back to the Torah (Books of Moses, first five books of the Old Testament). In stark contrast, Jesus doesn’t come and reference this or that teacher who went before Him, but boldly comes and speaks the truth from His own authority – authority meaning literally ‘from one’s substance’ or ‘from one’s self’. Christ speaks from Himself and the authority given to Him because He is in fact the prophet spoken of in our reading from Deuteronomy. He is the prophet who will speak the words placed in His mouth by the Father. He is the one who comes with the authority given by the Father and with that authority speaks to humanity.

Because is the Son of God and the great prophet, He speaks authoritatively and things happen. He commands demons to be quiet and they are. He cast them out and they go. He speaks of healings and they occur. His authority is true, and not just in Biblical times. It’s not as if the authority of Christ ended with His Ascension 2000 years ago. Rather, it is still at work in His Church, in the liturgy, and in the Word of God. His authority still speaks today.

While in years past, and still sometimes today, the evil spirits would manifest themselves in very physical and violent ways, today we often see evil lurking quietly, secretly moving hearts away from the Lord. It happens in addictions such as drug use, pornography, and lust for power or material things which lead us away from the Lord by sinning. It also happens in addictions to technology and other things that lead us away from the Lord not by sin but by keeping us from the silence where the Lord is found. And so we gather tonight and bring those addictions to the Lord, all of those places of darkness where the Lord is not fully present in our hearts, and we lay them at the foot of the altar and ask the Lord to speak with His authority once again and gain for us that freedom that brings peace. The freedom that permits us to be free once again and to rejoice in the knowledge of God’s love and mercy. May the Lord grant us the graces.