4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the life experience that you and I have, authority is almost always related to a position or a title.
For example, a business employer, a school teacher, an elected official, a parent, a basketball coach, a priest – all of these people have a certain authority. It is related to their position or their title or to both.
This is very different from Jesus because he has no position or title. But today’s gospel says that “The people are amazed at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority.”
A few years ago I came across an interesting insight about Jesus’ authority.
The original word for “authority” in this passage is Greek. It literally means “out of being” or “out of his own being.”
So Jesus teaches and drives away evil in this incident “out of his own being.” He does this from his inner self, from who he is as a person.
Now, it is easy for us to think of Jesus doing this “out of his own being.” After all, we believe – as the unclean spirit says in this passage – that he is “the Holy One of God.”
He is the Son of God. So no wonder he can teach and cast out evil “out of his own being,” out of his inner self, out of who he is as a person.
It is not so easy to think of ourselves as having this kind of authority.
But, I believe, Jesus calls us to this and it demands some work from us. It demands above all that we be quiet and slow enough to look within ourselves and be aware of who we are.
It demands that we know our strengths, like having a keen mind to understand things quickly or having good relational skills. It also demands that we know our weaknesses – like always wanting everything our own way or not being very flexible.
Having and living with the authority of Jesus also means that we allow Jesus and his presence within us and his grace to empower us. It means that we try to really take in and embrace his way.
And then, with this inner self, we can act with the authority of Jesus. We can lead the business or coach the kids or whatever out of our inner being and allow that to influence what we say and do.
Authority over Evil
Today’s gospel also shows Jesus using his inner authority to cast out evil spirits from the man in the synagogue.
My thought is that there are evil spirits that Jesus can cast out today. And these are fairly prevalent, maybe in all of us through the cultural air that we breathe.
I am thinking, for example, of the evil spirit of instant gratification. This spirit is pretty easy to identify: we want what we want when we want it and that usually means right now.
This spirit can lead us to an inappropriate expression of sexuality. My pleasure right now becomes the driving force above any other consideration.
Or this spirit can lead us to an overall impatience. We get impatient with slowed traffic or with anything or anyone who interferes with what we want right now.
This cultural tendency to instant gratification is really an evil spirit that needs to be cast out of our personal lives. It can have harmful effects.
So, today’s gospel has two lessons for us.
First, our real authority, the power to impact others for the good doesn’t come so much from a position or a title but from our inner selves. We see this in Jesus and this can be true for us too.
And second, we can allow Jesus to be alive within us and act with and through us. If we do that, then evil spirits can be cast out of us too.