The 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – B – January 28, 2024
Lectionary Readings: Dt 18:15-20; Ps. 95:1-2. 6-9; 1 Cor 7:32-35; Mk 1:21-28
Theme: The Commandment of Authority
The gospel presents a clear snapshot of Jesus’ early encounters with people in Capernaum, casting a skeptical thought on his perceived authority until he performed an act that further surprised or “amazed” them: casting an unclean spirit out of the person. The Gospel of Mark clearly emphasizes one crucial thing, at least, in this narrative: how the people perceive authority. People’s astonishment can be understood either as something positive or negative. Positively, in a sense, they learned great things from him. Negatively, in a sense, they were insulted by him.
The insult arose from the fact that Jesus did not speak according to the authority of others, such as the rabbis, but based on his own, “for he taught them as one having authority” (1:22). In other words, he speaks with intrinsic authority because he is definitely “not as the scribes” (1:22). His teachings spring from his person and do not rely on what other authorities think of a particular issue. Perhaps the second kind of astonishment is what the people felt during Jesus’s speech in the synagogue. However, the act of man who “cried out, ‘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’” (1:24), does not support the negative astonishment. Instead, he affirms Jesus’s authority, knowing he is “the Holy One of God.” But only to discover that it was not the man who spoke but the unclean spirit. While it is accurate, the expression of the unclean spirit manifests resistance. It is a challenge posed to Jesus, and he knew it. And so, Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to fly out from the man, and those who witnessed “were all amazed” (1:27). Two instances of amazement unfold in this account: one from Jesus’s teaching and the other from his act of saving the man from the unclean spirit. Both point to establishing, from the point of view of the people surrounding Jesus, an authority. Are these sufficient to believe that Jesus is and has authority? The commandment of authority is to have faith and trust in Jesus. One must believe for one to understand. If one believes that Jesus is the Son of God, the Holy One of God, no external performance is necessary to believe in his teachings. Sometimes, we question other people’s authority over us because we doubt them. We look down on them because we know we are better than they are, and so on. However, like it or not, we often fail to realize that each one deserves a chance to be given trust and faith in whatever they do. Jesus reminds us that authority does not come only from an astounding external performance. Sometimes, authority comes from our very presence in others, further reinforced by sincerity and purity of our hearts and intentions.
For Reflection and Discussion: We sometimes have difficulty following the orders or requests of people we think have legitimate authority over us because we believe they have yet to prove themselves to own such authority. The more we resist them, the more we admit that it is challenging to practice humility and trust. The more we question their authority, the more we project our unwanted desires or insecurities onto them. How do we find a way to overcome our tendency to cast doubt on others and their authority? Each one is his authority. We have to believe, trust, and have faith in them.
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Ben Carlo N. Atim, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2022