Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
1 Corinthians 7:32-35
In last Sunday’s gospel, Jesus began his public ministry telling the people that “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” Jesus also called his disciples, who would not only accompany Him on his journeys, but who would also be instrumental in establishing His kingdom, “which was not of this world.”
In the gospel for this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary time we find Jesus performing his first miracle, the casting out of an evil spirit, and we see Jesus teaching with “authority, not like the teaching of the Scribes.” Those present could sense that there was something different about this Rabbi, this teacher from Nazareth. Not only did Jesus appear to know what He was talking about, but there was something about His demeanor that “astonished” them. At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus’ casting out a demon demonstrates His power over the ruler of this world, Satan. Like Moses of old, Jesus has come to deliver His people from the power of evil, and to purify them of their sins. Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses’ prophecy in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. At the end of his earthly journey, Moses comforts his people by telling them “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up,” and God will put His “words into his mouth.” Jesus teaches as one having “authority,” just as Moses taught with authority.
Jesus’ authority was recognizably different from that of the Scribes, for He did not use that authority to rule over or subjugate people. Jesus’ authority was not about controlling people. He came to set people free.
True authority, the kind that has its origin in God, is never used to destroy lives. Instead of tearing down it builds up lives. No doubt we can think back to people who have made a lasting impression on our lives, either for good or bad. Perhaps it was a grandparent, an uncle, a parent, or a dear friend, who loved us and cared for us. Perhaps it was a teacher who encouraged us in our faith and exerted a positive impact on our lives. They possessed a God-given authority, and on account of their patience with our failures, their understanding of our idiosyncrasies, and their desire for what is best for us, they gave us a glimpse of the God we worship. On the other hand, there may be people in our past whom we remember with pain and discomfort, whose authority did not have its origin in God, and who exemplified all that is wrong with our world. We are called to be good teachers, good prophets, who, like Jesus, build up lives, and who give others a glimpse of the wonderful God who we worship.
Hence, let us approach Jesus with trusting Faith so that he may free us from the evil spirits that keep us from praying and prevent us from loving and sharing our blessings with others. Our following in the footsteps of Jesus declares that he has power over all the “evil spirits,” the spirits of despair, fear, compulsiveness, selfishness, anger, resentment, and hostility. Through Word and Sacrament, Jesus brings that power to us and says the same words to the demons in our life, “Be gone!” Jesus says those words not just once, but often, until finally we are free from these demons entirely. Our gospel declares that Christ has power over any demon, so whether those demons be addictions, heartaches, secret sins – whatever our chains may be – Christ can set us free from them, and longs to do so. May Jesus free us from all those spirits which make us deaf, dumb, blind, lame and paralyzed, both physically and spiritually.