4 Sunday B - Zeal and Authority for the Mission


Tony Kayala, c.s.c.: 

Zeal: The components for right motivation, they say, are
 
a) Passion (zeal, intensity, enthusiasm),
b) Direction (remember even the terrorists and ISIS have passion, but not the right direction. St. Paul had a great passion as a persecutor until the Damascus experience)
c) Perseverance (persistence, never give up. Abraham Lincoln faced every sort of setback, adversity and failure from 1832 to 1856 but was elected President in 1860) 

Zeal without direction can be due to excessive emotional or ideological or childhood issues. That's where some inner exorcisms are required to cleanse our inner world of many demons that direct our paths and ways and styles. To have the right authority directed by the Lord and his word, one has to constantly check one's motives for action or preaching.

Jesus spoke and acted with authority: St. Claire had developed the meaning of authority as authoring life, giving birth, or empowering people to bring forth. For her authority was always for service. When we say s/he is an authority on that subject, we mean to say that person has explored, researched, understood the matter in such a way s/he can talk about teach about it as if the matter has become his/her own. 

Whether to test or not they came with many questions to Jesus: Giving tax to Caesar or which is the greatest commandment or healing on the Sabbath or stoning the woman, etc. He allowed himself to be baptized, circumcised though he never propagated it. He paid taxes, obeyed Caesars, Herods, Pilates ...Mosaic law ...
So such a teacher with authority will teach and act with zeal /passion and people will sit up and take notice. What the world lacks are convinced preachers and teachers who live the gospel as they preach it.
 
Fr. Albert and Dr. Alfred were twin brothers. One Monday morning Mrs. Steward bumps into the doctor. "Father, that was truly an inspiring homily you gave yesterday." "Sorry, ma'am, that must be my brother, Fr. Albert.  He's the one who preaches and I'm the one who practices!"
 
We respect a teacher/preacher who practices what s/he preaches. That is the authority we respect and value. S/he should have both credentials and credibility.

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Halford Lucock says, "I was impressed several years ago when I read the Eugene Ormandy dislocated a shoulder while directing the Philadelphia Orchestra. I do not know what they were playing, but he was giving all of himself to it! And I have asked myself sadly, 'Did I ever dislocate anything, even a necktie?'"
Progress Magazine, December 31, 1992.

When he was pastor for the Methodist church in Scarborough, William Sangster had an eccentric member who tried to be a zealous Christian. Unfortunately, the man was mentally deficient and usually did the wrong thing. While working as a barber the man lathered up a customer for a shave, came at him with the poised razor, and asked, "Are you prepared to meet your God?" The frightened man fled with the lather on his face!
W. Wiersbe, Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching & Preachers, p. 215.
 
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1.     News on Jan 26: Zeal for the Lord and His Word 

Tamil Nadu asks top official to stop preaching faith 

His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. 

The Tamil Nadu government has directed one of its IAS officers not to go ahead with “preaching and propagating“ his faith as it is against service rules and could create communal disharmony. 

C Umashankar, a crusader against corruption and an early advocate of the use of free software in e-governance, was born a Hindu dalit but said he changed his faith to Christianity during the stressful times he faced in his battles against politicians. 

His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him. 

In a letter, TN chief secretary K Gnanadesikan told the commissioner for disciplinary proceedings, Umashankar: “It has been brought to the notice of government that you are going to take part in preaching and propagating activities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order. 

Umashankar said “guided by God,“ he has cancelled seven prayer meetings scheduled in the next few days, but said he will move the high court against the government's direction. 

2.     President of India: Wrong type of Zeal 

Don't make religion a cause for conflict: President
Commenting on terrorism, the president said “violence is seeping across our borders”. 

President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday said political discourse that "cuts and wounds" people’s hearts was “abhorrent" to India’s traditional ethos.

In his customary address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, Mukherjee said: “The freedom inherent in democracy sometimes generates an unhappy by-product when political discourse becomes a competition in hysteria that is abhorrent to our traditional ethos.”

“The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people’s hearts,” he added.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, he said: “Religion is a force for unity; we cannot make it a cause of conflict."

Mukherjee once again objected to government enacting laws without discussion, saying that it impacts the law-making role of the parliament and breaches the trust reposed in it by the people.

“This is neither good for the democracy nor for the policies relating to those laws."
 

3.     Sr. Rose, Indian Nun: “Spoke with Authority” about Rubber Plantation and worked with Zeal for the Mission 

Sister Rose Kaythinkara came to northeastern India 35 years ago armed with a bachelor’s degree in social work and a burning desire to preach the Gospel.  

Now 70, the Medical Mission nun goes around with armed security guards provided by the Meghalaya government. Thereby hangs a tale.

Over the past three decades or more, the die-hard Catholic nun has used innovative methods to help hundreds of thousands of villagers in Meghalaya state’s Garo Hills become self-reliant.

“Practically all the missionaries were focused on proclamation of the Gospel and many had heeded them and followed Christ. But I was touched by their poverty and sought ways to improve their economic situation,” she said. 

It was then the idea of rubber cultivation stuck the nun, daughter of a rubber plantation owner in Kerala state’s Kottayam district.  

The nun said it took her time and patience to convince the people. She provided them free rubber saplings and funds to start cultivation. “Many used the money for other purposes since they were in dire need of looking after their stomach,” she explained her initial hurdles.  

Again, people’s attitude changed after a few villagers began to tap the rubber and improved their economic status.  

As people took to large scale rubber cultivation, middlemen too emerged on the scene to fleece them. A kilo rubber fetched 45 rupees in the market, but the middlemen gave the cultivators only 12 rupees. This happened because the people had taken advance money for their daily needs from the middle men.

Once again, Sister Rose came to the people’s rescue. She bought their produces at the market price. To help them meet their needs she launched a multipurpose cooperative society.

“Lack of proper marketing system in East Garo Hills led to businessmen and moneylenders exploiting people. People got only one third of the actual price,” Sister Rose explained the reason for starting the Mendipathar Multipurpose Cooperative Society.  

‘Rubber revolution has brought in tremendous progress in our area. I have seen how poor people becoming self-sufficient and economically climb the social ladder,” he added.  

Sister Rose has liberated her people from poverty after firming up their lives with rubber. However, the question lingers: Will her opponents see reason and leave her to preach that good life is possible here on earth as well as in heaven? 
 
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4.     Donagh O’Shea 

Jesus taught "with authority," that is, he was the author of what he said; it never became his habit to quote rabbis and other authors, as the scribes used to do.  His message itself too must have had its own inherent authority (though Mark does not tell us anything here about its content).  What he said, if we are to guess from all the gospels, went straight to the hearts of his listeners.  The only rhetorical devise we know he used was the parable.  A parable is not an interpretation of some text, it is a fresh way of looking at ordinary experience.  His parables were drawn from the world of farming, fishing, viniculture…their world. It is inherently subversive to show people that their ordinary experience can be an open path to God; the scribes of every age would prefer that only their sacred text should do this.  People realised that here was a teacher who understood and respected them, and not a scribe discharging his erudition over them.  They were "astonished," because this was so unusual. 

His teaching had authority in a further sense: it made things happen.  He cast out demons.  In other words he liberated people who were tormented and demented in every way.  "Poetry makes nothing happen," wrote W.H. Auden, in a poem about Yeats.  But it does, as Yeats himself knew when he wrote, "Did that play of mine send out certain men the English shot?"  When preaching is only commentary it seldom makes anything happen.  But when Jesus preaches "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them" (Luke 7:22).  In Matthew 11:5 the description is identical, word for word.  These were of the Messianic age: in other words, they were indications that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited one, the Messiah. 

In today's reading, the demon which is being cast out shouts, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God."  This may sound like a profession of faith, but how could it be?  Instead it was a reflection of the belief that if you could name someone you had power over them.  The demon was claiming to have power over Jesus.  It was also the significance of Jesus' asking a particularly intractable demon, later on in Mark's gospel, "What is your name?" (5:9). 

Jesus did not disrespect the Scriptures; he used them for their intended purpose, to set people free, not to tie them up.  "To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ," wrote St Jerome (c. 347 - 419 AD).  We could add that the converse is equally true: to be ignorant of Christ is to be ignorant of the Scriptures.  If we did not read them in the spirit of Christ we would be certain to misuse them.  "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).   

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

In today’s gospel we hear of the reactions of people on encountering Jesus when they were gathered as a community: they encountered him as a brother, as a unique teacher, and as the Holy One of God. In our gathering today we are encountering him as our brother, our teacher, and the Holy One of God who is calling us together to share his supper. 

Michel DeVerteuil
General Comments
As we go on with our continuous reading of St Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus in Galilee where he starts his public ministry.

This passage is in three parts:
– verses 21-22: a summary of the teaching of Jesus in the synagogue;
– verses 23 to 27: an example of his ministry of driving out unclean spirits;
– verse 28: the effect of Jesus’ ministry.

In the first section, the emphasis is on the contrast between Jesus and the scribes. Here the scribes are symbolical of those who are content to record the teachings of others; Jesus speaks with personal authority.

In verse 28 St Mark evokes, as he often does in his gospel, the spread of Jesus’ reputation. Ask yourself how the passage if being fulfilled today, of the church or of any great movement. 

Prayer Reflections

Lord, when we look back on our lives
we realize that most of those who gave us moral teachings spoke platitudes.
They were scribes recording what others had said.
But we thank you that from time to time
you sent us someone like Jesus who spoke from their own experience,
and shared honestly what they were feeling;
these made a deep impression on us,
because unlike scribes they spoke with authority.

“When the church concerns herself with the development of peoples, she cannot be accused of going outside her own specific field of competence, and still less outside the mandate received from the Lord.”     …Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis

Lord, when the church confines herself
to going to the synagogue and teaching,
concerning herself with what is internal to her, many are happy –
they rejoice that she is making a deep impression on them.
But your will is that we should go further
and cast out the demons of our society –
racism, class conflicts, discrimination against the disadvantaged.
When the church does this there are convulsions and loud cries.
We thank you that in many countries
the church has persevered in following Jesus,
and people have been astonished and questioned themselves,
and her reputation has spread
as one who gives orders to unclean spirits and they obey her.

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 realize now that it was because we knew
that the Holy One of God was with us,
he had come to do away with our sin.
Eventually, after a long struggle,
we recognized the demon for what it was,
and it went out of us.
Thank you, Lord.

“I can only reach that depth in my neighbour that I can reach in my own spirit.”  ”’Mathew Kelly, Cistercian monk

Lord, our teaching will be new and will have authority behind it
only if we have accepted its authority within our own selves.

“Once brought into the light of mutual love, demons lose their power and quietly leave us.”   …Henry Nowen

Lord, we thank you
for the times when we have been able to share deeply with a friend
and something that was holding back our spiritual growth left us.
We knew that Jesus of Nazareth was with us.

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, a movement will spread
only of it moves from teaching in a closed room
to casting out the unclean spirits which are oppressing society.

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Homily Notes

1. Hearing the story about the possessed man brings a shiver to some of us, and a wry smile for others. For some, it is the tingly fringe of religion, an unsettling fear, and brings to mind films about possession or exorcism. This is where faith meets the eerie and the weird. For others, this is part of the historical dross that comes with Christianity having arisen before the modern psychiatry: it is just one more bit that needs to be dumped. For most people in an average congregation it will just be an item that does not seem important one way or the other: another bit of religion that just slips over us.

2. It is probably worthwhile acknowledging this range of reactions in the congregation. All too often people imagine that they, as individuals, are the only ones who have such reactions to the readings, and imagine that for the priest there are no such problems. This suspicion then breeds a form of alienation that makes people feel that they ‘deep down’ do not belong in the gathering.

3. So what can we learn from this passage despite our reactions to the exorcism? The whole passage is in the gospel to help a small group of Christians in the latter half of the first century to understand who Jesus is whom they are confessing to be ‘The Holy One of God.’ We can take ‘Holy One of God,’ the ‘Anointed One,’ and ‘The Christ’ to be just different forms of the same reality. Mark intended his preaching to be heard by the group when they gathered for the sacred meal which united them with one another and with the risen Christ, and so our hearing this gospel today is hearing it in a more formalised version of its original setting. So what aspect of faith in Jesus did Mark want to emphasise? Here lies the key to the passage: he wanted the gatherings to have an adequate appreciation of Jesus as the Christ.

4. Note that we are concerned with an adequate – adequate for us to realise that he is the Way – not a complete understanding: such might be possible in heaven, but never on earth. All the saints can testify that after a life-long pilgrimage of faith,they are just scratching the surface in understanding the significance of the Christ.

5. Mark was concerned that people hearing about Jesus might just imagine him as another preacher – so he adds that the people who encountered him were struck by his uniqueness: he was a teacher like no other. But Mark, equally, did not want people to think of him just as the greatest teacher: Jesus having come among us does the Father’s will, he liberates people from their demons, and he brings new life. But Mark, yet again, does not want Jesus just seen as a wonder-worker, a magician, so people must keep all these insights and try to understand them at the foot of the Cross. Only when we follow the teacher, the liberator, the one who suffered, and the one who rose from the dead do we start to imagine the mystery of the Holy One of God.

6. Getting some grasp of who we encounter in Jesus the Christ is the work of a lifetime. Sadly, many people think they know all about him. Our reflections here do not tell us who Jesus is; they merely attune us to being aware of the Holy One who encounters us in our loves, our trials, our fears, our talents,our demons, and right now in our gathering, our praying together, and our sharing in his banquet.

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Sean Goan
Gospel Notes


A dominant aspect of Jesus’ work in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom in Mark is his role as a teacher and this is particularly evident in the early chapters. Here we see his teaching making a deep impression on his hearers and they respond with wonder and astonishment. In this teaching Jesus was, no doubt, speaking of God’s will for the world in terms that were easily understood by his hearers. Added to this, his action of exorcising demons can be understood as a way of indicating the triumph of good over evil and showing that now is the time to respond with faith to God’s action in the world. The prevalence of exorcisms in the gospels is not to be taken as suggesting there was more demonic possession then than now. It is more likely that these accounts reflect ancient views around a range of illnesses that are more easily diagnosed nowadays. 

Reflection 
In this age of information technology and instant access to information and entertainment, we probably appreciate more than ever the worth of a really good teacher. It is an aspect of Jesus’ ministry that can easily be lost sight of, and that is a pity because it is more important that we understand his message than that we believe he was a miracle worker. As disciples we are challenged to continue to grow in understanding, to sit at the feet of Jesus the teacher and to take steps to make our own the wonderful good news of the kingdom. By being properly informed, we are less likely to be led astray by the whole range of ‘false prophets’ who today compete for our allegiance.
 

ILLUSTRATIONS: 

1.     From the Connections: 

THE WORD:

The day of the Messiah has dawned; but newness demands change: a “turning away” (the original meaning of the word repentance) from business as usual and a complete trust in the life and love of God.  Simon and Andrew's “abandoning” of their nets and James' and John's "abandoning" of their father in today's Gospel illustrate the total trust and commitment Jesus demands of those who would be his disciples. 

HOMILY POINTS:

Jesus began his ministry by calling simple fishermen to be his most trusted friends.  Although the Twelve were hardly scholars or men wise in the ways of the world, Jesus saw beyond their gruff simplicity to call forth from them faith, sincerity and integrity.  As Mark’s Gospel unfolds each Sunday this year, the first disciples will misunderstand Jesus (if not miss the point entirely), desert him and even deny and betray him. 
To follow Christ means “abandoning our nets” of self-interest to embrace the needs of others; Jesus calls us to follow him along the difficult path of humility and selflessness.  If we are going to realize his call to be “fishers of men,” we have to be willing to cast our nets into waters that are deep and turbulent, waters we do not know, waters that threaten the safety and security of our small boats. 

But Jesus entrusts to them, for all of humankind, the proclamation of his Gospel.  We, too, are called by Christ to be his “fishers,” to help one another discover the love of God in our midst.

The Gospel is about possibilities:  Christ came to show us how it is possible to love life to the fullest, if we dare to make forgiveness, reconciliation and selfless charity the center of our lives. 

THE WORD:   

For the poor Jews of Jesus’ time, the scribes were the voices of authority, the final arbiters of the Law in which God had revealed himself.  Their interpretation of the Law was considered absolute.

“Demons” are encountered several times in Mark’s Gospel.  Anything that the people of Jesus’ time could not understand or explain, such as disease, mental illness or bizarre or criminal behavior, were considered the physical manifestations of the evil one -- “demons” or “unclean spirits.”

Both demons and scribes are silenced in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ casting out the unclean spirit from the man possessed silences the voices of the demons that plague humanity.  In his compassionate outreach to the poor and sick, Jesus “silences” the scribes by redefining the community’s understanding of authority:  whereas the “authority” of the scribes’ words is based solely on their perceived status and learnedness, the authority of Jesus is born of compassion, peace and justice.  The casting out of the demons and his curing of the sick who come to him are but manifestations of the power and grace of his words.

Note that the people of the Bible viewed miracles differently than we do.  While we, in our high technology, scientific approach to the world, dismiss miracles as some kind of disruption or “overriding” of the laws of nature, the contemporaries of Jesus saw miracles as signs of God's immediate activity in his creation.  While we ask, How could this happen?, they asked, Who is responsible?  Their answer was always the same: the God of all creation.  Those who witnessed Jesus' healings, then, saw them as God directly touching their lives.

HOMILY POINTS:

True authority is propelled by persuasion, not coercion; effective leadership is a matter of articulating a shared goal rather than warning of the consequences of failure. 

Jesus’ “authority” inspires rather than enforces, lifts up rather than controls; he sees his call to “lead” as a trust, as a responsibility to serve others by revealing the God who calls us to compassion and mercy for the sake of his kingdom of peace, instead of a God of judgment and vengeance. 

Authority comes not from power to enforce but from the ability to inspire. 

The ‘unclean spirit’ that Jesus casts out of the poor man in today’s Gospel serves as a symbol of the voice of evil that sometimes speaks within us -- the voice of revenge, self- centeredness, self-righteousness, greed, anger. 

We can be “possessed” by “demons” who discourage us and plague us with fear when we consider the unpopular position that we know is right and just; or the “demon” of rationalization that falsely justifies actions -- or inactions -- we know in our heart of hearts is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel.  The compassionate Jesus of the today’s Gospel speaks to those "unclean spirits" as well, offering us the grace and courage to cast them out of our minds and hearts forever.

2.      Fr. Tony Kadavil: 

# 1: Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit?

Jesus' world was a demon-haunted world. Men and women in the ancient world believed in demons. Demons for them were intensely real. The first century world was one of pain and suffering. There was no relief from pain. It was a world of natural disasters that took a heavy toll on life. Disease, even the slightest illness, could be fatal. There was a high rate of infant mortality. Life expectancy was in the middle forties. Because they had no idea of the causes of natural disaster, calamity, or disease, the people associated them with demons. It is difficult for our modern world to realize the power and influence that demons had upon first century human life. But when it comes to evil and demons, is there that much difference between the first and twenty-first centuries? We cannot dismiss evil as a first century phenomenon. It operates as an active force in our world as well as in our souls. In one lifetime we have witnessed the Holocaust of World War II, the Jewish holocaust, genocide in Cambodia, Jonestown, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, child abuse in America, Branch Davidians, the bombings at New York's Twin Towers and Oklahoma City. Boko Haram and ISIS atrocities. Who would deny that our century is possessed of an evil spirit? 

# 2: Show him yer papers!

"There is an old story about some linemen who were busy putting up telephone poles through a farmer's fields. The farmer ordered them off his land, whereupon they showed him a paper giving them the right to plant poles wherever they pleased. Not long afterward a big and vicious bull charged the linemen. The old farmer sat on a nearby fence and yelled: 'Show him yer papers, darn ye, show him yer papers!'" To many Christians, Jesus' authority is only a paper authority. His word is something we study for inspiration, but we really don't believe that what Jesus teaches applies to our situation. For many of us, Jesus' authority doesn't extend to putting a marriage or a family back together. It doesn't mean curing an addiction or healing a character flaw. Maybe 2,000 years ago he had authority, but not today. 

# 3: Athletes proclaiming the authority of God.

Athletes with religious convictions are nothing new.  In 1954, the Fellowship for Christian Athletes (FCA) was founded "to present to athletes and coaches, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church." In a visit to the FCA's extensive Web Site, many familiar names pop up: Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Cris Carter, Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne, University of Washington quarterback Brock Huard and Heisman-trophy-winner Charlie Ward. New Orleans Saints quarterback Danny Wuerffel is an active member of the FCA and a contributing writer to the FCA's monthly publication, Sharing the Victory. Wuerffel has said: “I am a Christian who happens to be an athlete, and not vice-versa." Courtney Chase declares, "For Christian athletes religion is part of the game." “Muscular Christianity" has been around since baseball-player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday loudly refuted the idea that Jesus was a weakling, a man of sorrows, a loser. The football stadium at Notre Dame is situated next to a huge library mural known as "Touchdown Jesus." It was big national news when Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders Sunday gave God all glory for the victories of his after the Cowboys' 37-7 rout of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Professional athletes are getting saved, and sports writers are getting annoyed! There can be no doubt that the number of athletes publicly testifying to their faith has drastically increased in the last few years. When the Yankees won the 1996 World Series, for example, The New York Times quoted the team's born-again star receiver, John Wetteland, saying, "Jesus Christ is my point man." Increasingly, the athletes are attributing their victories to God. Such testimonies -- along with the Bible study sessions, chapel services pre-game and post-game group prayer -- have all become an accepted part of the game today, bearing testimony to the authority of God in all spheres of human activities. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus demonstrates this Divine power and authority in his teaching and healing ministry.

 #4: The en vogue theory:

During a discussion of William Shakespeare, a student asked the old professor about the en vogue theory that Shakespeare did not write the plays ascribed to him. The professor growled, "Young man, if Shakespeare did not write those plays, then they were written by someone who lived at the same time and had the same name!" It is a sure sign of desperation in the atheistic circles to speak of Jesus as a myth - the idea that Jesus did not even exist, much less conduct a ministry with Divine power and Divine authority as described in today’s Gospel. 

3. Fr. Jude Botelho:

Dear Friend,

Though most people do not like to be ordered about or told what to do, yet people listen to persons who speak with authority. Of course, people who flaunt their authority are often challenged, but people who exercise quiet authority are listened to. Sometimes authority comes from experience, for others authority comes from within, for still others it comes from who they are and how they live their lives. The prophets of old and the prophetic voices among us derived their authority from God.
Have a discerning weekend recognizing the prophetic presence of God in our midst!
In the earlier part of Deuteronomy Israel was warned about using all kinds of soothsayers and magical techniques to find out the will of God. The divine will was to be made known only through the prophets. Prophesy was to be Israel's special means of communication with God, Yahweh's special gift to his people. The people asked to be spared the ordeal of hearing the voice of God directly. They asked Moses to intercede with God to let His prophets speak on his behalf. Yahweh granted this request and the prophet became a mediator for the people. In the first reading Moses foretells the coming of a prophet who will speak about God's word to the people. Deuteronomy presents Moses himself as the ideal prophet. The prophet can never speak on his own authority, but speaks on behalf of God. The Jews believed that God would raise up in the last days a prophet like Moses.

Commonplace Prophets
An Amos walks the beaten paths of Tekoa, but he hears a divine voice which no other vine dresser in Tekoa ever caught; a Bunyan tramps about England mending pots and pans, but above the din of this lowly task he catches voices that presently are to reverberate immortally through Pilgrim's Progress; a Lincoln steers his awkward raft down the Mississippi and ties up near a slave-auction block. But out of his rough routine labour a voice sounds which no other raftsman ever heard; a Riis tramps the round of a New York reporter in search of news, and out of the ugly tenements through which his duties carry him catches a challenge from the God of social justice which makes him a veritable prophet; and a lad of Galilee at a common carpenter's bench, shaping the same yokes of wood for the necks of cattle which countless other carpenters have shaped, dreams his way into a vision of the coming kingdom of God, when man shall wear the spiritual yoke which he shall shape for them as easily and as gratefully as these toiling bearers of burdens shall wear the wooden yokes which he is now making. In every case the majesty of the commonplace lies not so much in the task itself as in the spirit which the great soul brings to the task.
Frank S. Hickman in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

 In the second reading Paul is advocating the unmarried state, namely celibacy as an ideal way of life for those looking for an opportunity for contemplation and the apostolate. Paul's contention is that the person who decides to offer himself to the Lord's service should give his undivided attention to the Lord and not be preoccupied with family matters, and that anything that distracts his attention from the Lord should be shunned by him. Paul believed that the duty of providing for a family clashed with one dedicating oneself fully to the Lord. This teaching of Paul may have also been influenced by his belief in the immediate second coming of Jesus. The time was short and one should not be sidetracked by worldly matters. Paul's teaching still holds good for all who wish to make the kingdom the top most priority of their lives.

Freedom to serve
During the early days of the nineteenth century a wealthy plantation owner was attracted by the heartbreaking sobs of a slave girl who was about to step up to the auction block to be sold. Moved by a momentary impulse of compassion, he bought her at a very high price and then disappeared in the crowd. When the auction was over, the clerk came to the sobbing girl and handed her the bill of sale. To her astonishment, the plantation owner had written 'Free' over the paper that should have delivered her to him as his possession. She stood speechless, as one by one the other slaves were claimed by their owners and dragged away. Suddenly, she threw herself at the feet of the clerk and exclaimed: "Where is the man who bought me? I must find him! He has set me free! I must serve him as long as I live!"
Anthony Castle in 'More Quotes and Anecdotes'

 In the gospel we are told that Jesus in order to get his message across to the people, used the opportunity provided by the synagogue to address the people. Normally any member of the synagogue or an important visitor was given the opportunity to speak to the people. Jesus used this opportunity given to him. Jesus' words carried great authority with the ordinary people, because his words had a ring of truth. His teaching was given with authority and confirmed with miracles, the sign that God was with him. In today's gospel we see how Jesus spoke with authority, and how ordinary people recognized this. His teaching made a deep impression on the people. His authority, unlike the scribes did not come from an external source, like the quotations used by the scribes, but from within. His authority was not second-hand, what others had said but from his own experience. He had experienced what he was talking about. He did not have any official position but he spoke the truth and truth does not need external support. The scribes always quoted the official position and their authority was buttressed by the opinions of great legal masters of the past. Jesus quoted no one; he spoke for himself, with his own authority. There are certain human beings who possess an unaccountable spiritual superiority. This gives them enormous moral authority. They have this authority, not by virtue of an office they hold, but by virtue of the kind of persons they are. Jesus possessed this kind of authority. Jesus also revealed the kind of authority he had when he was interrupted in his teaching by a poor demented person. "Do not meddle with us, Leave us alone. Have you come to destroy us?" The possessed person thus testifies to the power that Jesus had over the power of the evil one. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit sharply. "Be quiet! Come out of him!" And the unclean spirit was forced to leave the possessed man and went out with a loud cry. The people were astounded at the power of Jesus and remarked: "Here is a teaching that is new, and with authority behind it; he gives orders even to the unclean spirits and they obey him."

Speaking with Authority
Antiochus Ephiphanes, King of Syria, had a great interest in Egypt. He amassed an army and invaded that country in 168 B.C. To his deep humiliation the Romans ordered his home. They did not send an army to oppose him; such was the might of Rome that they did not need to. They sent a senator called Popilius Laena with a small and quite unarmed suite. Popilius and Antiochus met on the boundaries of Egypt. They talked; they both knew Rome and they had been friendly. Then very gently Popilius told Antiochus that Rome did not wish him to proceed with the campaign and wished him to go home. Antiochus said he would consider it. Popilius took the staff he was carrying and drew a circle in the sand round about Antiochus. Quietly he said, "Consider it now; you will give me your decision before you leave that circle." Antiochus thought for a moment and realized that to defy Rome was impossible. "I will go home," he said. It was a shattering humiliation for a king. But that was the power and the authority of the Roman Caesars. - In today's gospel we hear of another man who exercised authority; not the authority of brute power that subjugated people, but the power that comes from God. His authority was different from anyone else. His authority was divine.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

"Jesus spends the Sabbath at Capernaum with his first disciples. There he manifests his extraordinary authority, both by his teaching and by the healing of possessed and sick people. Thus from the beginning of his ministry his fame spreads throughout Galilee, this region which, after the first Easter, will become the place of universal mission. For the present, Jesus goes to the synagogue and teaches there. After the catechesis of the law given by a scribe, no doubt Jesus would have given the homily, as at Nazareth. He arouses the astonished admiration of his audience. Unlike the scribes, who were anxious above all to explain the letter of the text on the basis of commentaries received from their teachers, Jesus expresses himself like someone who knows what he is talking about, and is not satisfied to repeat what others have taught him. Referring to no one but himself, he appears to be free with regard to the law which he interprets with authority. The healing of a possessed man, who interrupts Jesus with his cries, confirms the power which the Holy One of God disposes of. It can only provoke the question: Who is this man? Let us recognize our difficulty with such an account. Today, medicine and depth psychology relegate to a purely pathological level what antiquity attributed to the supernatural world. 'Schizophrenia' is what we think of when confronted with this so-called demoniac, an explanation which may not explain anything at all. Why should Satan not sometimes act by means of the split in a psychotic personality? Let us not fall into the trap of the new conformity and look only to the human sciences and the philosophies of surmise! It is in order to liberate us from received ideas and reactions that Jesus comes, now as in the past, to speak to us with authority." -Glenstal Bible Missal

Speaking with Authority
In one of its issues Newsweek addressed in depth the Women's Liberation Movement. It observed that once the revolution was declared, the nation was flooded with books on the subject. Some books, like those written by Nancy Woloch and Phyllis Schlafly, were serious studies of the significance of the movement. Other books, like those authored by Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, were more strident and dogmatic. The latter illustrate what often happens in a movement - self-styled prophets emerge who presume to speak with full authority. And so we have had such figures as Hugh Hefner as the spokesman for the Playboy Philosophy, guru Timothy Leary for the LSD cult and the militant Malcolm X for the Black Power movement. History shows that many of these movements die out and that their prophets fade away. But there is one movement that endures, one prophet who lives forever. The movement is Christianity and the prophet is Jesus Christ.
Albert Cylwicki in 'His Word Resounds'

Authority is a strange thing!
Authority is a strange thing. A fourteen year-old boy argues about the curfew imposed by his parents. Then the next day in the freshman baseball game, he dutifully lays down a good bunt, forgoing a mighty swing at the fence, because the coach flashed a signal from the bench. Instant obedience to the coach; reluctant submission to mum and dad! On an airliner the captain flashes the seat-belt sign and everybody complies. Four hours later in a rented car, the passenger disregards the seat belt. The irony: for the same distance travelled, the airliner is three times safer.
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for all Seasons'


May we discover in the word of God the power and authority of Jesus Christ!

4.     Sermons.com 

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. Legend has it that in 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten-pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right.
I believe that this illustrates perfectly what is going on in the world today. You could show the terrible ravaging effects of AIDS and people will have promiscuous sex anyway. You can show someone a diseased liver and cancerous lungs and people are going to abuse alcohol and smoke regardless of the facts.

You know what I wish? I wish someone would just climb to the top of the tower and push off a ten-pound argument and a one-pound argument and let's just see if they reach the ground first. That would finally prove who is right and who is wrong. But then I am reminded that when Galileo did that no one believed him. Even with the authority of obvious visible proof, i.e. the two weights reached the ground at the same time, the professors did not believe. The problem here is obvious. Most people are going to believe what they have always believed regardless of the facts.
But something different occurred in the life of Jesus. Something persuasive... 

There are two things we absolutely crave in our lives: predictability and spontaneity. 

We crave the comfort of predictability. We work long and hard to grow life in a steady job, a certain career, a consistent source of income.  We earn degrees, save money, buy insurance, invest for retirement. We have a home, a family, a schedule, which gives structure and meaning to our days and nights. We build our lives on the secure foundation of predictability.  

But conversely, we also crave spontaneity. We hunger for those unexpected moments that bring uncontained joy and unconstrained excitement to our day-to-day existence. We ache to be astonished and amazed. That is why God made ESPN. 

There is nothing like the unscripted, uncut, unpredictable moment-to-moment excitement of a live sporting event - whether it is football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, tennis, golf, bowling or curling. That adrenalin anticipation is why no one will be staying for "coffee hour" today. We are running home to watch the Super Bowl.  

That is not such a bad thing, really. The Super Bowl brings family and friends together. It lets us eat lots of good-tasting, bad-for-you food. It is just plain fun. And as a sporting event it has absolutely no predictable outcome. Your team might win big, or your team might lose by a whisker. Bad calls, nasty weather, one momentary misstep can change everything. Even though the game is ordered by rules and stopwatches, guarded by referees and instant replays, it is still an anything-can-happen event.  

Life is unfair and unpredictable. We try to tame life's uncertainties with long-range plans and short-term check-lists. But it's the very uncertainty of life that makes every day such fun and so frightening. It is the reason why faith drives us to utter dependence upon God's promises, provisions and providence... 
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 The Authority of Jesus 

The church in the world is a lot like the story that E. Stanley Jones tells of the missionary in the jungle. He got lost with nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He finally found a small village and asked one of the natives if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. "All right," the missionary said, "Show me the way." They walked for hours through dense brush hacking their way through unmarked jungle. The missionary began to worry and said, "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The native said. "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path." 

Our path out of the jungle of this world is God in Christ. We may have some Rabbis, Masters, Father's, Teachers, and Reverends but we are all like the missionary. We rely not upon men but Christ who is our path. 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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Don't Forget Your Dance Partner! 

C.S. Lewis once penned some thoughts on worship, particularly in the face of liturgical innovators in England who seemed to think that every worship service needed to be a kind of variety show with each week being different from the week prior. Lewis had no truck with that kind of thinking. Worship, Lewis wrote, should be a bit like dancing. Once you have learned how to dance and have become good at it, you are able to immerse yourself in the dance and just do it almost without thinking about it. But if you must constantly look down at your feet, if you have to think about each movement before you actually make it, then you can't dance yet but are just learning how to dance. 

Worship is like that, Lewis thought. A believer should be able to move through the liturgy without having to check his every movement first. An ideal service would be one you hardly notice in the sense of your simply being immersed and caught up in a set of actions and a series of thoughts that are fully a part of you already. Overall, Lewis makes a good point. Still, I would throw in a cautionary note to his analogy: worship may be like a dance that you are so good at you can just do it freely and flowingly, but we dare never forget who our dance partner is!

Scott Hoezee, Center for Excellence in Preaching
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Help in Facing Our Fears 

Leslie Weatherhead once told a parable of a little boy who fled from a witch who had turned herself into a cat. As the boy ran, he kept glancing fearfully over his shoulder. The first time he looked back, the cat was the size of a calf. The next time he looked, it had grown to the dimensions of an elephant. Then the boy fell, and was unable to go farther. Resolutely he got up and faced the pursuing horror. It stopped. So he took a step toward it. It backed away. As he continued to advance toward it, it began to shrink in size as it retreated from him. Finally it changed into a mouse and ran under the door of the witch's cottage to be seen no more. 

The moral is clear: it pays to face up to your fears. But sometimes that is hard to do. That is when we need to turn to Christ. He can help us stand up to our fears and conquer them. He can cast out demons.
Adapted from Leslie Weatherhead.
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 Christ Has Come to Free Us 

That man with an unclean spirit understands who Jesus is better than anyone else in the room. He is on the margins of society and the margins of sanity, but he knows exactly who Jesus is. Remember that the disciples don't figure it out until Chapter 8, when Peter says, "You are the messiah, the one sent by God." This man of unclean spirit is way ahead of everyone, and he wants to know, "What are you going to do with people like me? Are you going to destroy us?" 

"Be silent and come out of him!" And then the man convulses and cries out loudly and the unclean spirit leaves him. I still have no idea what an unclean spirit is, but I am impressed. Mark still hasn't told us a thing about what Jesus taught, but he has showed us that Jesus had a power over things that people label as unclean. Mark is making this point: that the will and purpose of God present in Jesus is engaging and fighting against the purposes of evil that exist among humanity. This battle is not fought just at the highest levels of government or industry, but right in the midst of common folk like us. The battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong, life versus death happens amidst the people who are gathered for worship. Christ has come to shatter the domineering designs that shackle people to lower standards for life than God intends. Christ has come to free us from the demons like prejudice and pride, greed and guile. Christ is among us, whenever we gather in church, to demonstrate a power among us. If we devote ourselves to anything less than a divinely directed destiny, we have missed the goal of faith. 

Todd Weir, What Will You Do with Us, Jesus?
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 Authority without Relationship 

A young second lieutenant at Fort Bragg discovered that he had no change when he was about to buy a soft drink from a vending machine. He flagged down a passing private and asked him, "Do you have change for a dollar?" The private said cheerfully, "I think so, let me take a look." The lieutenant drew himself up stiffly and said, "Soldier, that is no way to address an officer. We'll start all over again. Do you have change for a dollar?" The private came to attention, saluted smartly, and said, "No, sir!" 

James W. Hewitt, Illustrations Unlimited, p. 42.
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 My Best Demons
 
Kathleen Norris writes, "When I think of the demons I need to exorcise, I have to look inward, to my heart and soul. Anger is my best demon, useful whenever I have to go into a Woman Warrior mode, harmful when I use it to gratify myself, either in self-justification, or to deny my fears. My husband, who has a much sweeter nature than I, once told me that my mean streak grieved him, not just because of the pain it cause him but because it was doing me harm. His remark, as wise as that of any desert Abba, felt like an exorcism. Not that my temptation to anger was magically gone, but I was called to pay closer attention to something that badly needed attention, and that was hurting our marriage. It confirmed my understanding of marriage as a holy act: one can no more hide one's true faults from a spouse than from God, and in exorcising the demon of anger, that which could kill is converted, transformed into that which can heal." 

What are your best demons? To name them for what they are and how they bring suffering, is half the battle. 

Kathleen Norris
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 What an Understatement! 

Now comes the understatement. The people in the congregation, having witnessed a scene to rival anything in The Exorcist, look around at each other and say, "What is this? ... A new teaching!" 

A new teaching? If this had happened in any congregation I know, they may have sat for hours in stupefied silence, they may have rushed to the altar in sudden repentance, or they may have jumped out of the church windows in terror, but the last thing they would have done was to comment on how this casting out of a demon constituted an innovation in Christian education. A new teaching? Indeed.

To call such an extraordinary event of the casting out of a demon a new teaching, well, I think that constitutes understatement for most of us because our ordinary experiences of teaching are so dull. So much of our teaching and learning involves stuff that is on the periphery of our lives. We may need to know it, but it doesn't exactly hit the core of us, the things which most centrally define us as persons. It doesn't move us, change us, make us new persons. 

Christ's teaching, on the other hand, transform us. Just ask the demon-possessed man, ask the apostle Paul, ask Martin Luther, ask John Wesley. You could describe this as a new teaching but better yet describe it as God with us. For if God is with us, that changes everything.

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com. Adapted from an unknown source.
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What's The Other Reason? 

A few years ago a teacher noticed one of her students, a shy young girl, was having trouble working out her arithmetic assignment. The teacher went to the child quietly and asked if she could help with any questions knowing the girl was timid about asking for help. 

When the problem was sorted out the little girl thanked the teacher. The teacher told the little girl not to be shy about asking questions, "That's one of the reasons I am here." 

The little girl thought about that for a moment and asked quietly, "What's the other reason?" 

Unknown
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 The Church Dare Not Have an Influence 

In his penetrating book The First Circle, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the famous Russian author who defected to America, makes an interesting observation about how the Russian authorities handle the church. He writes: "No one stops them from ringing their bells; they can break communion bread anyway they please. They can have their processions with the cross. But they will in no way allow them to have any connection with social or civic affairs." The church was allowed to go through the motions; it could have a presence, but it dare not have an influence.

What bothered the scribes was not that Jesus prayed and preached. It was the fact that his prayers and his sermons were moving the people to action. I wonder if the church still has that concept of authority. So often our problem is not that we do not have authority, it is that we do not use the authority that we have...

6. Sermons Illustrations:

These illustrations are well known but here it is for the record:
In U.S. Navel Institute Proceedings, the magazine of the Naval Institute, Frank Koch illustrates the importance of obeying the Laws of the Lighthouse. Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities.
Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, "Light, bearing on the starboard bow."
"Is it steady or moving astern?" the captain called out.
The lookout replied, "Steady, Captain," which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, "Signal that ship: 'We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the signal, "Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees."
The captain said, "Send: "I'm a captain, change course twenty degrees.'"
"I'm a seaman second-class," came the reply. "You had better change course twenty degrees."
By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, "Send: 'I'm a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.'"
Back came the flashing light, "I'm a lighthouse."
We changed course.
Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 153.

When Christian Herter was governor of Massachusetts, he was running hard for a second term in office. One day, after a busy morning chasing votes (and no lunch) he arrived at a church barbecue. It was late afternoon and Herter was famished. As Herter moved down the serving line, he held out his plate to the woman serving chicken. She put a piece on his plate and turned to the next person in line.
"Excuse me," Governor Herter said, "do you mind if I have another piece of chicken?"
"Sorry," the woman told him. "I'm supposed to give one piece of chicken to each person."
"But I'm starved," the governor said.
"Sorry," the woman said again. "Only one to a customer."
Governor Herter was a modest and unassuming man, but he decided that this time he would throw a little weight around.
"Do you know who I am?" he said. "I am the governor of this state."
"Do you know who I am?" the woman said. "I'm the lady in charge of the chicken. Move along, mister."
Bits & Pieces, May 28, 1992, pp. 5-6.

For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right. 
Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22-23.

Amy Carter brought an assignment home one Friday night while her father was still President. Stumped by a question on the Industrial Revolution, Amy sought help from her mother. Rosalynn was also fogged by the question and, in turn, asked an aide to seek clarification from the Labor Department. A "rush" was placed on the request since the assignment was due Monday. Thinking the question was a serious request from the Prez himself, a Labor Department official immediately cranked up the government computer and kept a full team of technicians and programmers working overtime all weekend...at a reported cost of several hundred thousand dollars. The massive computer printout was finally delivered by truck to the White House on Sunday afternoon and Amy showed up in class with the official answer the following day. But her history teacher was not impressed. When Amy's paper was returned, it was marked with a big red "C." 
Campus Life, May, 1981  p. 59.

STATISTICS AND STUFF

God-ordained authorities:
Government: Rom 13, 1 Pt 2:17
Employer: Eph 6, 1 Pt 2:18
Husband: 1 Pt 3:1, Col 3:18, Eph 5:22
Parent: Eph 6
Elders: Heb 13:17
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