18:15-20; Psalm 95; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28
THEME OF THE READINGS
Christ, the Eternal Word
of the Father, is an authority unto himself (First Reading).
He comes into the world and enters the hearts of
his eager hearers through his teaching. He also liberates those
possessed by demons with the power of his word. We
are called to heed the Word and not to harden
our hearts, as the Jews did at Meribah, but to
greet him with thanksgiving (Responsorial Psalm).
In true Marcan style, the Gospel presents
us with glimpses of Christ. It shows Christ keeping
his audience “spellbound by his teaching because he taught with
authority and not like the scribes.” Christ’s voice commands awe
and respect, because it is the Word of God that
spoke, “making its own rounds, seeking those worthy of it,
and graciously appears to them in the ways, and meets
them with all solicitude” (Wisdom 6:16). When Christ commands the
demon to leave the possessed man, he makes no reference
to the long, complicated exorcism rite common amongst the Jews
of the time. That old Jewish rite, like all exorcism
rites is two-fold: it implores God’s action and then, in
God’s name, commands the demon to depart. Christ has no
need of this, because he is the Word and hence
authority itself. He has no need to implore God’s authority
– he is God. Christ knew this, and
so did the demon. If the demon wasn’t certain about
Christ’s identity before the exorcism, he surely discovered it when
he met his match in the Holy One of God.
The demon’s torment becomes wonder for the people. Christ’s
new, authoritative teaching was not lost on his hearers, for
his reputation spread throughout Galilee.
about Christ’s authority over demons, let’s talk about its relation
Christ not only imparts truth
to us in his teaching, he also gives us the
help we need to understand and accept it. A good
but merely human teacher works from outside, and hopes his
message will enter us. Christ’s word, on the other hand,
can enter inside us and reach our minds and hearts
if we let him; with our assent, it can clear
all obstacles and permit us to fully accept the truth
of his word. His action is intimate and profound, reaching
every dark and hidden part of our minds and hearts.
He even moves our souls to help us accept his
word and act upon it.
is acceptable only through the gift of faith. No amount
of human reasoning, even by the brightest of minds, equals
a humble act of faith by the simplest of souls.
Christ offers the gift of faith which “comes by hearing,”
as St. Paul says. Christ did not only merit for
us the theological virtue of faith and the other virtues
and gifts, he also obtains them for us and produces
them in us – if we so choose.
While Christ imparts his teaching to us through the Gospel,
the Church, and our study of the truth, he is
acting in our souls at the same time, enabling his
word to take root in us and grow. He gives
us the sensus fidei, a sort of intuition of divine
things (cf. LG n.12). This is God at work in
a soul faced with the truth. He moves our intellects
with the gift of faith, and enlightens them with the
gift of the Holy Spirit called understanding.
The Holy Spirit enlightens our intellect with the gift of
wisdom, and Christ concurrently enkindles in our will the fire
of divine love (caritas) so that his word would be
not only known, but loved as well. This is
best seen when Christ taught the two disciples on the
road to Emmaus. Here, wisdom aroused charity in them,
causing them to exclaim “Did not our hearts burn within
us while he spoke along the way?”
Such is the authority of the Word.
St. Therese of
Lisieux says “the Teacher of teachers instructs without sounds or
words, and though I have never heard him speak, yet
I know he is within me, always guiding and inspiring
me; and just when I need them, lights until now
unseen, break in upon me.” If we are in a
state of grace, and our wills are disposed to be
taught by Christ, Christ readily acts. Christ’s Spirit instructs our
souls, fulfilling his promise that “The Paraclete, whom the Father
will send in my name, he will teach you all
things, and remind you of all everything I have taught
you” (John 14:26).
The Word comes to
us, and the Holy Spirit, living in our souls, helps
us to live the Word’s desires – even down to
the banalities of daily life. But in order to ensure
that none of this is left to our subjective tendencies,
imagination, natural inclinations, or prejudices, Christ gives us the Church.
“The Church,” says De Lubac “is Christ in time.”
He has entrusted the Church with the task of preserving
his doctrine and transmitting it unaltered and complete.
Since Christ is our Lord and Teacher, we must
accept everything he says. All salvific truths taught and revealed
by Christ have been deposited in the Church. His word
is active within the Church, present in the Gospels, and
at work deep within our consciences.
is not enough for us to have the treasure of
our Catholic Faith, we have to explore it, to profit
from it. That done, we conform ourselves to it, “occupied
with pleasing the Lord.”