|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Dt 18:15-20||Ps 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9||1 Cor 7:32-35||Mk 1:21-28|
Teaching and acting with authority and power
During Ordinary time the Lectionary readings invite us to reflect on stories and teachings from Jesus’ everyday ministry. Today’s readings ask the believing community and RCIA participants to think about authority and power.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, Moses promises the Israelites that God will continue to provide them with prophets and prophetic leaders. God fulfills this promise through a prophetic “office:” first, through judges, and later, through formal prophets, invested with God’s authority to speak for God. In later biblical periods, Jews understood this promise in a messianic sense: God would send one final prophet (the “eschatological prophet”) who would inaugurate the end times. Jesus stands in Israel’s prophetic tradition, as well as fulfilling the role of the eschatological prophet, who both teaches and redeems.
In the second reading from the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul answers the community’s questions and corrects their understandings about marriage. Because Paul believes that Christ’s return is imminent, he counsels the Corinthians not to focus on worldly concerns (like marriage). Although he recommends a celibate life, Paul doesn’t deny marriage to those who want to be married. Paul’s point is simply: those without worldly attachments and responsibilities are better able to pursue the Lord’s work (building up and serving the believing community).
In the gospel, Mark describes Jesus’ first day of ministry: he teaches in the synagogue with authority and he exorcises the unclean spirit with power. The Greek word ἐξουσία (ehks-oo-SEE-ah) means both “authority” and “power.” Jesus’ authority/power is a sign that God’s kingdom is present:
- In authoritative words. The synagogue attendees recognize that Jesus “teaches with authority (ἐξουσία),” unlike the scribes. Jesus proclaimed the nearness of God’s kingdom (Mk 1:15), while the scribes focused on traditional doctrine. Jesus’ words cause “amazement” or “astonishment.” Jesus’ teaching about the good news of salvation demonstrates his authority to save God’s people.
- In powerful actions. Jesus expels a demon with a single command. The demon knows that Jesus has come to destroy evil’s reign on earth. The bystanders recognize Jesus’ power (ἐξουσία), saying “even the unclean spirits obey him.” Jesus’ action causes “amazement” or “astonishment.” Jesus’ handling of the unclean spirit demonstrates his power over evil.
This week’s readings ask us to examine authority and power. As the first reading tells us, God is authority’s source. In the gospel, we see Jesus standing in the prophetic tradition, teaching and healing. Because Jesus is God, his authority and power bring salvation and clear the way for God’s kingdom. Whose authority and power do we recognize? Are they using their authority and power to save and heal, or do they use it to exclude and harm? Do their words and actions amaze and astonish us?