Authority is when we claim God whom we proclaim

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 28 January 2024
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ><}}}}*> Mark 1:21-28
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, an orange-bellied flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) somewhere in the Visayas, December 2023.

The gospel makes us wonder anew this Sunday on the mystery of Jesus, on what was with his person and speech. Remember how we wondered the other Sunday on what he had told Andrew and his companion who “went and see” Jesus at his dwelling at “four in the afternoon” (Jn. 1:39) that they realized he was indeed the Messiah, the Christ.

Reading further in that portion of the fourth gospel, we find how Andrew and companion brought two others to Jesus, Simon Peter and Nathanael to become disciples too. This Sunday as we return to Mark’s gospel, the evangelist tells us the start of Jesus Christ’s public ministry on a sabbath in the synagogue of Capernaum with his first four “fishers of men”:

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:21-22

Photo by author of ruins of parts of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus taught, May 2017.

Every time we hear the word “authority” especially among us Filipinos, it often evokes the sense of power, of superiority over persons and things. In Tagalog, we translate it as “power” or kapangyarihan, kakayanan mapangyari ano mang bagay.

But, Jesus is now telling us something deeper about true authority. People compared his kind of authority with their scribes, men of power and authority in their time along with the priests and Pharisees who were considered experts in scriptures being learned men, highly regarded and feared. Their authority flowed only from their position and name, from the outside and not from within.

Jesus shows us today that real authority flows from within, from a person’s inner self, from one’s heart, not from designations nor positions. True authority is felt even without the titles nor any forms of externalities. True authority comes from people who “walk their talk” so to speak.

Photo by author, tourists and pilgrims at the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus taught, May 2017.

People of true authority “actualize” their words and their thoughts, making them a “reality” that everyone not just notices but even feels their authority. True authority creates a certain sense of aura, of positive vibes (arrive or “dating”) and a lot of mysteries that even in just reading Mark’s account of Jesus in the synagogue, we too could feel it and be astonished with the people there 2000 years ago!

What is most amazing here is that Mark did not tell us what Jesus spoke of nor what he taught nor even described how he spoke. What was so unheard of from Jesus that people and even us today are astonished with his words?

Keep in mind how Mark narrated this scene in the context of the synagogue on a sabbath – a beautiful reminder to us of Jesus continuing the Jewish tradition that had come into fulfillment in him. Recall also that at the start of Mark’s gospel After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ”This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:14-15).

Photo by author in May 2019 of a signage at the entrance of the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus taught more than 2000 years ago.

In the synagogue, Jesus continued this preaching. He claimed what he proclaimed for he is in fact – his very person – is the kingdom of God who had come as we reflected last Sunday.

People felt God in him as he spoke, very similar with the experience of the chosen people in the wilderness with Moses in the first reading. There in the synagogue on that sabbath day, Mark presents to us how Jesus is indeed the “Word who became flesh” that people felt God in him because he claimed what he proclaimed. As the first reading from Deuteronomy reminds today, the surest criterion for recognizing a prophet is being a spokesperson of God like Moses now fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

We all share in this prophetic ministry of Christ when we were baptized but, are we rooted in God’s words that we speak only God’s words like Jesus?

Can we claim what we proclaim that after celebrating the Sunday Mass, people experience Christ’s authority within us when we go home and go back to work and school because we actualize, we make God real in ourselves in our words and deeds?

How sad that we – especially us your priests – speak more of our selves and of the world, making the Mass a videoke and a variety show rolled into one that God is hardly felt by the people except be entertained.

Photo from https://santoninodecebubasilica.org/chronicles/viva-pit-senor-viva-senor-santo-nino/

The second time Mark mentioned the people being amazed with Jesus in his speaking with authority in the synagogue on that sabbath day was when he exorcised a man with an unclean spirit.

In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit… Jesus rebuked him and… And the unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud voice came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:23, 25, 26-28

The surest sign of God speaking through us or anyone is when healing and repentance happen just like in the synagogue on that sabbath day. Notice how Mark recorded the words of the people about Jesus, “A new teaching with authority.”

In John’s gospel during the Last Supper we heard Jesus telling his disciples about his new command or teaching too which is to “love one another as I have loved you” (13:34).

True authority is about love and healing, kindness and compassion, mercy and forgiveness. Definitely not about subjugation nor manipulation nor use of force as we always experience from those with authority who display their powers and literally throw their weight around even amid heavy traffic with their security escorts blaring with sirens.

People were amazed at Jesus in healing the man with unclean spirit and called it a new teaching with authority because they felt God present among them because there was healing and exorcism which only God can do.

Most of all, the people in the synagogue felt God with them because Jesus was one of them unlike the scribes and other people of authority who were above them, detached from them.

The same thing is most true with us these days. Whatever authority we have is to help and comfort people, not to scare them nor burden them. We are most moved by people in authority – whether at home or in school, at work or in the community and in the church – when they are kind and approachable, caring and understanding.

Photo by author at the shore of the Lake of Galilee in Capernaum, Israel, May 2017.

Jesus teaches us today that true authority is making God present in us by offering comfort and consolation to those suffering like the poor and the weak who merely survive as they try to make ends meet daily.

True authority is being prophetic, making God and his words our very own, becoming ourselves his presence and his healing hands with our loving service to everyone, offering hope and inspiration to those down in sins and miseries.

True authority leads to salvation and liberation from sins. This begins with our communion in God through Jesus Christ in our personal and communal prayers, especially the Sunday Mass.

We are all blessed with the same kind of authority of Jesus Christ. Let us claim it by being free from all anxieties in this life (second reading) by joining Jesus in his journeys like the four disciples with him in the synagogue in Capernaum. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead.

Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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