As we prepare for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM offers a Scriptural Reflection. This content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflection January 31 2021. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.
In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.
All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
The gospel text for this Sunday follows the call of the first disciples in Mark’s gospel. Here Mark describes Jesus as he begins public ministry. The beginning and the end of the text describe Jesus as a teacher. He was not like the other teachers of the day, he taught with authority. The scribes taught by citing the teachings of other great teachers who had gone before them. One might think of a teacher who quotes many highly respected sources in the course of a lecture.
Jesus’ teaching is described in the middle verses of this text. Rather than describe in some detail one of Jesus’ teaching moments, Mark describes Jesus’ encounter with an unclean spirit. People of the day believed in the presence of many spirits. Some were kind, others were menacing, but all were believed to be more powerful than humans. The people believed that only God was more powerful.
The average person used a variety of objects and techniques in order to have some protection from the menacing power of an evil spirit. Contact with someone with an unclean spirit would render them impure. The presence of someone with an evil spirit in the synagogue would have been disruptive. In the gospel, the spirit tries get the upper hand by claiming to know Jesus’ name, calling him “Jesus of Nazareth” and “the Holy One of God.” But Jesus is the more powerful, despite the fact that the spirit can call out his name. Jesus tells all the evil spirits to be quiet and come out of the man. They are obedient to him. Because they obey Jesus, the carpenter’s son who has come into their synagogue has taught “with a new kind of authority,” and his fame spreads.
- Do you believe in the existence of a spirit world? Do you believe in the existence of the Devil?
- Whether or not you believe in a spirit world and the existence of evil spirits, do you carry out your day-to-day tasks without concern for or recognition of a spirit world?
- Do you have any experiences that suggest to you that there is a spirit world, and that this spirit world has manifested itself in your life?
- When you think of Jesus as a teacher, what are some of the great moments of Jesus the teacher?
- When you think of Jesus revealing his authority, what are the moments you recall? What does it mean for you that Jesus taught with authority?
- Who are the people who have taught you with authority? What about them gave them their authority?
- Can you take some time to talk to God about your desire to have teachers in your life today who can teach with authority?