This weekend’s Gospel reading features lots of questions about and commentary around Jesus’ authority. Jesus enters Capernaum with his Disciples and then enters the synagogue to pray and teach. A man “with an unclean spirit” enters the synagogue and Jesus proceeds to do an exorcism. The others in the temple are completely amazed by Jesus and immediately you hear a collective, “Wow! Who is this guy? He doesn’t teach like the scribes and he heals people with an authority unlike we’ve ever seen!” This amazement of, and confusion about, who Jesus is, will carry on throughout the rest of the Gospel of Mark.
As I read this Gospel message, two themes resonated with me that seem especially relevant today. First, Jesus’ power and authority was vastly different than what we might first imagine. In our time and culture, power and authority is often viewed as something connected with wealth or someone’s political or social position in our community, state or nation. However, Jesus had no wealth, and no political or social position in the community. In addition, Jesus often did not even adhere to Jewish tradition when exercising his God-given authority. Jesus’ lack of social or political clout would have been much like someone getting an op ed article published in the local newspaper, without having any executive position or initials after their name.
The second thing to note in today’s Gospel message frames another theme that will show up again and again in Mark, as well as the other Gospels: Evil does exist, but it CAN be expelled.
Both the fact that Jesus appeared perfectly ordinary and the fact that he reminds us again and again throughout the Gospels that, with God’s help, we can cast out demons, should give us lots of hope today. There is plenty of evil in the world that needs to be cast out, but there are millions of us ordinary people who have the power to heal the world.
Some scripture scholars believe the demon presented itself in the synagogue because Jesus’ mere presence brought the demon forth into the light. If this is the case, then a good question to ask ourselves today is: What am I doing to bring the demons out of the shadows where they can be confronted and driven out by love? What am I doing to bring injustice and oppression out of the shadows and into the open, so we can work to eliminate it from our world?
My hope this year is that we will quit looking to those with wealth or political or social clout for the answers or solutions, and we will begin asking ourselves, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “What is mine to do?
The “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog is written by Susie Tierney, Executive Director, of the Center for Social Ministry. Susie hopes the blog will encourage others to be “bridge-builders” in this politically divisive time, and will promote dialogue and common ground-thinking. To sign up to receive our “Building Bridges, Building Hope” blog click here.