Year B Fourth Sunday in Ordinary time
Mark 1: 21 – 28
Father, we thank you for the gift of your Holy Word.
May it be a lamp to our feet, A light to our paths, Joy to our hearts and Strength to our lives.
In the light of the contrast made between the teaching authority of the scribes and that of Jesus, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Mark wants us to read this passage symbolically.1 Please keep this in mind as you read and re-read today’s passage. By doing this we will find much greater depth of meaning and the passage will impact far more on the relationship between God and Ourselves.
21They went as far as Capernaum, and at once on the Sabbath he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.
23And at once in their synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit, and he shouted, 24 “What do you want with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.”
25But Jesus with authority rebuked it saying, “Be quiet (be still)! Come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him.
27The people were so astonished that they started asking one another what it all meant, saying, “Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28And his reputation at once spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.
Take time now to reflect on the words that have been highlighted.
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The scene is set in the synagogue and on the Sabbath. This clearly indicates that Jesus is confronting the teaching that does not further the Kingdom of God. He is determined to get rid of all that is damaging in the teaching of the religious establishment. Jesus has told us that his “Yoke is sweet and my burden light.” He has come to lighten the burden on humanity not to increase it. The “Holy One of God” is confronting anything that does not lead to the fullness of life of humankind. It is not surprising that the unclean spirit puts up resistance in the story. Just think about our reaction when we are confronted with our own shortcomings!
We are left in no doubt as to the outcome of this confrontation between Jesus and the unclean spirit. We will frequently find, as we continue our journey through the Mark’s Gospel, that we are assured that “Good / God will triumph”.
This must surely have been a new teaching for Mark’s community and Jesus audience. Their reaction is; it “made a deep impression on them” and, “The people were so astonished”. The meaning in the original Greek is much stronger. It means that they were in a state of shock or they had entered into a new way of thinking. Is God calling us to view the world and our lives in a new way? I think so! I am sure that we may find this deeply disturbing as we are called to make changes in our outlook and way of relating to God and others.
Take note of the words used by Jesus to secure the victory over the unclean spirit, “Be quiet (be still)! These are the same words that he will use when he calms the storm 4: 39.
Surely this should be how we feel as we reflect on how I am being called to a more meaningful relationship with my God? Let us pause now to allow this to impact on us.
Jesus’ teaching had a profound impact on his audience and on Mark’s community. This was because he spoke “with authority”. He spoke from personal conviction. He spoke from his own life experience. As we grow in our contact and understanding of the Word, and as we allow the Word to impact on our lives so too will our lives (the way we live) come to have an ever increasing impact on the world around us. Our lives will speak with “authority”.
Time to recognise all this in our lives.
Time to respond to all God is saying to us.
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St Paul assists us with an understanding of “holy spirits” and “unclean spirits”.
Gal 5: 19 – 21
19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, 21occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
Gal 5: 22 – 23
22In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
“Lord, prayer is a moment when we pass from experiencing the teaching of Jesus as something vague to knowing that it has authority behind it, it gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey it.”
Lord, we remember a time when we were held in bondage by an inner force:
· we could not forgive;
· we did not want to commit ourselves because we were afraid of failure;
· ambition was clouding our vision of the truth.
Then someone began to speak, challenging us to face the truth – one of our children, a friend, a bible passage. We got angry, denied it vehemently, wept, complained to another.
Like the man in the gospel, we went into convulsions and cried aloud. We realise now that that it was because we knew that the Holy One of God was with us, he had come to do away with our sins.2
Respond: Spend time with the Lord. Perhaps you may repeat, “Be quiet (be still)!”
1. Fallon, M: The Gospel according to Saint Mark; p63
2. De Verteuil, M: Lectio Divina with the Sunday Gospels – The Year of Mark,Year B; p 135